January 2020 Featured Educator: Gwendolyn Quadri

Gwendolyn Quadri is an ESL specialist at West Lee Middle School in Sanford, North Carolina. Gwendolyn is in her ninth year of teaching and fifth year at West Lee.

We hate to admit it, but sometimes our parents know best. This was certainly the case for ESL specialist Gwendolyn Quadri when it came time to decide what career path to pursue.

Quadri was born in Northwest Virginia but wound up living all over the U.S. because her father was in the military. She returned to the eastern part of the country for college and was on track to become a medical doctor. By the time Quadri was set to graduate, she wasn’t sure that a career in medicine was for her. At about the same time, her mother went back to school to become an exceptional education teacher and pointed out that Quadri should also consider a career in teaching.

“Have you heard of ESL teachers?” Quadri’s mom asker her. “I think becoming an ESL teacher would be perfect for you. You speak Spanish, like studying language, and enjoy learning about different cultures.”

With Quadri’s love of kids and her volunteer position as a mentor at the Boys & Girls Club, she had to admit it made sense. And by the end of her senior year, she decided to enroll in a Master’s program in education.

Ten years later, Quadri spends her time designing lesson plans for her 81 multilingual students at West Lee Middle School in Sanford, N.C. She uses blended learning centers with her students to build skills in the four WIDA language domains: listening, reading, speaking and writing. Her students spend each week rotating through the centers, honing their skills in reading and writing by using YouTube, Kidblog and ELLLO for listening skills.

“Interactive notebooks are the end product of the centers, and I incorporate the WIDA standards into how I plan the notebooks and how I assess my students’ progress,” Quadri said. “When I conference with my students, they know exactly what I’m looking for and how what they produce compares to what’s outlined in the WIDA rubrics.”

Quadri feels strongly about helping her students develop 21st century skills in the classroom through the use of technology and communication tools like blogs. Quadri’s students leave her classroom, and middle school, with a bulging portfolio of design and written work.

“My goal is to build positive relationships with my students, set high expectations and act as a good role model,” she said. “I truly admire and love my students because they set the bar so high. Plus, they help us teachers become more culturally aware.”

As soon as students walk in the door to her classroom, Quadri makes sure they have a shared agreement that the room is their workplace and that there are clear instructions and expected outcomes.

Last year, WIDA invited Quadri to participate in a rubric study. The experience helped her better understand her students and how they can find their footing in not just her classroom but content classes. Quadri said she was able to see the full circle of language development from “where we want to be, how to measure it and each step that helps ELs grow.”

“I love helping with research projects. I want to learn more. Because language development is so new there's still so much to learn and improve to help our students be successful,” she said.

If you’d like to learn more about Quadri and her classroom, visit her blog, ELLevated Education.