Featured Student: Nallely Gonzalez

October 22, 2021

“Today’s students are our future” is a well-known adage that rings true today. Nallely Gonzalez, a WIDA Featured Student, is a clear representation of a future leader. 

Nallely Gonzalez is a 17-year-old senior at La Follette High School who lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Nallely is a 2021 WIDA high school summer intern who loves dancing, journaling and scrapbooking. Nallely is a driven multilingual learner. She typically speaks Spanish at home and English at school and work. She also has some experience with American Sign Language (ASL). As someone who is hard of hearing, she knows the value in learning ASL and hopes to be of service to those who use ASL.

Nallely said that being a multilingual learner has had its ups and downs. When she was younger, learning English was a bit of a challenge because of the subtle yet meaningful differences in the language.

“When I started learning English in school, it was a little hard for me because I would often mix Spanish and English words... Even with math, the English meaning of multiplying was adding in Spanish. It was kind of confusing for me,” Nallely said. One thing that could help multilingual learners feel supported, according to Amanda Spalter, one of Nallely’s internship supervisors, is to celebrate students’ multilingualism.

Knowing more than one language is an asset for Nallely. She mentioned that being multilingual allows her to help others. When her parents need translation help, she helps them. She supports Spanish-speaking students at her school that may need help with English.

Helping others comes naturally to Nallely. After high school, she plans to attend UW-Madison or another university. She said she hopes to become a teacher or doctor.

“Ever since I was a little kid, I took an interest in teaching,” she said. “I would pick up all my stuffed animals at home and pretend to teach to them. I am also interested in being a doctor or pediatrician because I love to help little kids and babies.”

Being an intern for WIDA has allowed Nallely to gain and improve upon important professional skills that will help with her in the future. While at WIDA, she worked on a plethora of projects including interviewing one of her teachers, creating concept maps related to identity for Wisconsin Evaluation Collaborative (WEC), attending meetings to give advice about how to improve ACCESS for ELLs, writing an article for WIDA Español, and contributing to WIDA’s social justice work. Her main focus at WIDA has been to home in on the importance of social justice in education.

“I’m writing for social justice and I’m putting in what uplifting student voices means to me and questions that teachers can ask themselves like, ‘How can I help student with uplifting their voices?’” Nallely said.

She mentioned that it's important for teachers to talk to students about social justice issues happening in the world. She feels like this is valuable to student growth and learning.

“Teachers should talk about topics that are happening to show students that they do care about topics that are important to us because we’re the future,” she said. “We’re growing up, so it’ll be our future.”

Nallely said that her time as an intern at WIDA has been nothing short of amazing. WIDA is important to her because of its mission to assist multilingual learners from a multitude of perspectives, she said. She is comforted by the fact that WIDA not only focuses on students, but also the role in which teachers and parents play in learning. Her role at WIDA has allowed her to become a better public speaker, she said, as well as a more confident writer and better interviewer.

“I attended the WIDA all staff meeting with more than 70 people and it was kind of nerve-racking,” Nallely said. “I took some deep breaths and tried to calm down as best I could. I think that’s the most amount of people I’ve ever had to talk to.”

Nallely plans to use the skills she has learned during her upcoming senior year – and after!

About the author

Kaitlyn Mathis' headshotKaitlyn Mathis is a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying international business and marketing. She is currently a marketing and conference assistant intern at WIDA.

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