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Elementary ESL

2012 Celebration of Teaching and Learning

By Noreen Drucker

P lans are underway for the 2012  Celebration of Teaching and Learning, the tri- state’s premier educational conference. If it is anything like the past six years, it is an event worth attending as it is  one that has recognized the ever increasing presence of ELLs in  public education.

I have attended each and every one of these conferences presented by Channel   Thirteen and WLIW21. The original conferences were held at the Pier on the West Side.  As the conference grew and developed, it moved into the New York Hilton on Avenue of the Americas. But for those of you familiar with Channel 13, it  never left the corner of Knowledge and Inspiration

At that first Celebration, there was not much available that specifically targeted ELLs. However, Kathleen Leos, who at the time was the head of OELA ( Office of English  Language Acquisition) gave a presentation that I found fascinating. I approached her afterwards and learned about the upcoming summit for ELLs in Washington, DC. I was fortunate enough to attend that summit two years in a row.

It was there that I  met Dr. Kate Kinsella and her Four Column Approach to Academic Vocabulary. Dr. Kate was the keynote speaker. In the afternoon she offered an additional workshop that proved to be an invaluable experience for ESL teachers. I followed up on her work after the conference, and  redesigned the Four Column Approach to work with my third and fourth graders. Once I saw how effective it was, I offered a series of half day workshops to the mainstream teachers in my district who had  ELLs in their classrooms. The workshops were very well received and many of the teachers continue to use that approach to teach vocabulary.

Over the years, the Celebration has attracted incredible professionals in and out of the teaching field. Dr. Wong, Former Vice President Al Gore, and Jane Goodall were just a few of the luminaries. Carola Suarez-Orozco and Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, authors of “Living a New Land”  were on hand to explain their work. Diane Ravitch,  Gary Knell, and Cynthia McFadden made presentations and facilitated panel discussions. Arne Duncan was interviewed, as were other former Secretaries of Education. Last but not  least, there was  Dr. [Mehmet] Oz. He spoke about being healthy and taking care of ourselves.  He spoke to us as the professionals we are and thanked us for the job we are doing. The ballroom at the Hilton was packed and his speech was most exhilarating.

In the past, the Celebration  provided opportunities for student/teacher collaboration  using multimedia. In 2010,  the Fernbrook School, an elementary school in New Jersey,  participated in Chase’s  Multimedia in the Classroom contest. We created a video entitled “Where No English Language Learner Has Gone Before”.  It told the story of four English language learners who came to the United States with no English and within 18 months were proficient on the Language Arts section of the Grade 4 NJ ASK. Although the video did not win a prize, it did raise awareness about the challenges that our students face.  Although the contest was discontinued in 2011, I am hoping that it will be reinstated this year.

The year 2011 saw a tremendous growth in presentations specifically designed for our students.

These included:

The Celebration has grown over the years and it such an uplifting experience. It truly celebrates teachers as professionals and gives us that Feel Good Feeling for what we do every day.

Next year’s Celebration is on March 16 and 17, 2012 at the New York Hilton
For more information visit: www.thirteencelebration.org

To see highlights from last year’s celebration, go to:

If you can, sign up early and save.
See you there!


Noreen Drucker is the ESL Elementary 1 - 5 Representative.