Highlighting Conference Elementary Workshops and More
By Maggie Manson
T his year’s NJTESOL/NABE Conference which took place on May 24th and 25th at the Regency Hyatt Hotel in New Brunswick had a lot to offer a diversified audience. Attendees were encouraged to attend anything from early childhood workshops all the way through college.
At the SIG (Special Interest Group) meetings a variety of issues were discussed. Educators got to meet to talk about some of the most prominent issues in their districts as well as the things that were working well. During the two Elementary SIG meetings, educators found themselves trying to help fellow educators with issues such as a lack of materials and/or a lack of direction. Some discussed what cut-backs had done to their districts. Overall, we realized that throughout the state of New Jersey each district had its own method of implementing bilingual education. A variety of curricula were being used state-wide. Some individuals came seeking advice about which curriculum worked best in each of the districts. Overall each individual walked away with something different. Some made the realization that their districts weren’t so bad after all and were heading in the right direction while others were hopeful that change would come their way.
April Ponticello and Elizabete Mazzeo, both from Perth Amboy, worked jointly to show some of the activities they have expedited within their classroom while team teaching in a sheltered classroom. The workshop was mainly geared to K-2nd grade. The two teachers had many visuals to offer their audience. Together they demonstrated a variety of strategies/methods they used within the classroom. Those that attended had many positive comments about the duo and their ideas.
Marybeth De Costanzia and I, also from Perth Amboy, presented a workshop on how to implement literacy through science. Although this workshop was geared to K-4 elementary teachers, it could be modified and used with older students. Even though strategies were discussed using a variety of topic areas the emphasis was not on the topic itself, instead it was on the method which was used to expedite the lesson. Many who attended were not elementary teachers. Towards the end of the workshop we had received a lot of positive feedback based on the information presented. Several teachers used similar methods and enjoyed sharing what worked and didn’t work in their own classrooms. Everyone walked away with innovative ideas to implement in their own classrooms.
On Tuesday evening we didn’t just have an international buffet dinner, but we also had the privilege of listening to the keynote speaker, Nancy Cloud. Nancy Cloud is the co-author of “Literacy Instruction for English Language Learners: A Teacher’s Guide to Research-Based Practices”, (Heinemann, 2009). Dr. Cloud shared important research findings related to the teaching of reading and writing to ELLs. During the evening, a variety of awards were presented to numerous individuals.
As a pre- and post-dinner treat we had the pleasure of being entertained by elementary teachers Emma Redondo Chicharro and Kim Siracusa. Neither of these teachers are professional dancers; they are educators who happen to be very talented. Ms. Siracusa has been teaching art for seven years and has been teaching in Perth Amboy for the past three. Along with being a teacher, she is also a professional fabric artist who has her work on display regularly at the Main Avenue Galleria in Ocean Grove, NJ (http://www/mainavegalleria.com/browse/artist?artistID=122). Her other passion is dance. In 2006, she decided that Middle Eastern Dance was what she truly loved. Kim has been performing this type of dance for the past five years. Ms. Redondo had informed me that she started dancing at an early age when her mom had taken her to both ballet and Flamenco dance classes. She dropped ballet and continued to learn Flamenco. In 2002, she teamed up with Ms. Siracusa. Together they formed the Flamenco y Ole Dance Team and currently provide afterschool classes to young girls who are interested in learning these types of dances. During the conference dinner, the two danced individual numbers, as well as a joint piece to the song “Viento de la Arena” by the Gypsy Kings. [See our photo gallery.]
Although we changed venues, this year the conference was a true success. It had a well diversified variety of workshops to attend and many vendors to visit and talk to. For those who attended Tuesday night’s dinner we got to celebrate the true life successes of several of our state’s students. But we can look forward to next year’s conference being just as successful, if not more!
Maggie Manson is the Bilingual Elementary SIG Representative. She teaches in Perth Amboy and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org