Living out the WIDA value of service

July 11, 2023

WIDA is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year! As a way to mark this occasion, we’ve asked staff members to write about the ways in which WIDA enacts its mission, vision and values. In the following article, Karen Bach, Mariana Castro and Jen Daniels discuss service at WIDA.

Service is a core WIDA value, but you might ask, service to whom? Every day at WIDA we focus on serving multilingual learners, their families, and their educators. We do this through the resources, professional learning, assessments, and customer service we provide. We also expand our approach to service by including service to our community. Let’s take a look at some of the ways WIDA staff members put this value into action.

Responding to Educators

“Thank you for your speedy reply and all the helpful information!” is a typical response from educators reaching out to WIDA for support. We put a high priority on customer service as we respond to questions that come in via telephone or e-mail. People are often pleasantly surprised when they discover how accessible WIDA is through the Client Services Center. They can have one-on-one conversations with our team members about assessment training and administration, professional learning opportunities, resources, and more. Our goal is to provide the best customer service experience so that educators can focus on what matters most--supporting their students.

Fostering Connections Among Educators

Image removed.Positive feedback each year confirms how valuable educators find the WIDA annual conference, for both attendees and presenters. It’s a conference for teachers, by teachers. In 2022, more than 1,000 educators attended the WIDA Annual Conference in Louisville, KY, and 1,500 joined in the virtual conference events to connect with colleagues and hear fresh thinking and approaches to support their work with multilingual learners.

Another way that we foster educator engagement is through the WIDA Fellows program. Each year, we select  a new group of ten amazing educators to engage in a learning community with each other and to share their insight and experience with WIDA team members in a variety of ways. Our professional learning design teams have so appreciated the expertise and creativity of these classroom implementation experts as critical friends to  our work. In words of one WIDA Fellow, “Being part of WIDA Fellows gives us a cohort of knowledgeable, compassionate educators who are an immediate resource that we can reach out to as we face our day-to-day challenges.”

Image removed.
Puja Mullins, WIDA Fellow

“I think my favorite part is feeling that I have this WIDA family all over the country.”

WIDA Fellows often comment how much they appreciate having a community of like-minded peers that are passionate about equity and best practice across the country.

Supporting Educator Learning

We have expanded access to professional learning across the WIDA Consortium by providing a variety of learning opportunities online and in person. WIDA’s goal is to serve educators when and how they want to learn. The online self-paced courses allow busy educators to choose the time of day or week that works best for them. About half of the people who complete self-paced professional learning are classroom teachers. Many of these teachers have shared that the resources WIDA provides have helped them to enhance the engagement of their multilingual learners in meaningful learning and language development. All our self-paced courses have PLC guides so that local educators can work together to apply their learning as they work with their students within their own contexts.

Engaging with Our Community

Our value of service grounds our relationship with our community in Madison and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. WIDA collaborates with research projects, offers guest lectures to various departments at the University of Wisconsin, and partners with UW scholars in their research.

One of WIDA’s most important partnerships is with Midvale Elementary, a local school. Many of the students at Midvale Elementary are English learners, though we work with all students and teachers. The partnership has evolved over the last 10 years and has provided opportunities for WIDA to learn from Midvale teachers, as well as for WIDA staff to volunteer in school-wide events, support funding drives, and partner with teachers to provide classroom resources.

Image removed.Every year, staff collects winter gear for children at the school. During summer 2022 alone, WIDA staff put together over 1,000 snack packs for Midvale students. And over the years of our partnership, WIDA has donated approximately 350 books to Midvale classrooms.

Our goal at WIDA is to exceed expectations with trusted and knowledgeable support of our clients , our stakeholders, and our community. The better prepared and knowledgeable educators are, the better opportunities their students will have to develop their languages and be successful academically. Ultimately, we serve the multilingual learner community so that they can have spaces where they belong, and where they can learn and grow.

About the Authors

Karen Bach is a client services specialist in the WIDA Client Services Center. She handles questions from administrators and teachers about WIDA assessment tools, training and services.

Mariana Castro is the director of the Multilingual Learning Research Center at UW-Madison. She spent 16 years involved in leadership of professional learning and standards development at WIDA.

Jen Daniels is an assistant director in the Educator Learning, Research, and Practice team, which provides standards, professional learning and resources for educators serving multilingual learners.


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