Voices Vol 42 No 2


From The Editor

Sensing Spring

By Roselyn Rauch

As I write this sitting at my kitchen counter, I smell the blooming, oh-so-delightfully fragrant hyacinths on my dining room table; I smell the spring rain outside my door; and I hear the songs of birds that have returned north. The seasons really are changing. As a an executive board member of NJTESOL/NJBE, I am privy to the preparations gearing up to our annual spring conference and I feel the happy anticipation of our own ESL/bilingual convention.

This issue of Voices is the last one before our conference and it contains very helpful information for you to have a successful experience in New Brunswick in May: read Gwen Franks’ guide, Getting the Best Experience from Spring Conference - especially the parking information. Vice President/Conference Chair Sandee McHugh-McBride reinforces the overview of what you will experience. Gregory Romero will whet your appetite for the conference with The Magic in English Language Learning as will Noreen Drucker in Check out Our Web Page and Come to Our Conference.

Something new at the conference will be an NJTESOL/NJBE donated table to someone worthy of promoting involvement in second language acquisition and parental involvement. The first recipient is KaHlaw Meh, a Burmese refugee, who does weaving to supplement her income. You can read about her in KaHlaw Meh’s Story by Natasha Agrawal and you can meet her in person as she demonstrates her weaving skills and displays her for-sale wares.

Other articles run the gamut: The title that at first stymied me was President Cassandra Lawrence’s Helphers and Helphims; don’t do as I did and pronounce the ph as an f –it will get you nowhere. E.J. Franks in I Wonder muses about many things ESL/bilingual; you will definitely identify and agree with some element here. Our historian Barbara Tedesco in Historically Speaking is searching and collecting; find out what, why, and where.  Other Special Interest Group (SIG) representatives, Tina Kern, Yasmin Hernandez-Manno, Monica Schnee, and Caia Schlessinger write about being All Together Now, ELLs – Meeting Their Needs, Family Literacy, and Collaboration, respectively. Gladys Vega Scott, Higher Education Rep., is promoting Sharing Our Expertise through her conference SIG meetings. Parent/Community Action Representative Karen Nemeth poses some questions for her SIG to discuss in Spring into Action.  Supervisors’ SIG Rep JoAnne M. Negrín gives Advice from the Trenches; our tech expert and web-master, Marilyn Pongracz, reviews Google Search Education.              

Published here, too, are the newly revised (2013) NJTESOL/NJBE By-Laws which delineate how the organization operates. Read what makes us tick. As always, I encourage you to read what is going on in all of the SIGs:  knowledge is power.

And sadly, we have to report the passing of two very involved ESL/bilingual colleagues: In Memoriam: Patricia Levine and Jessie Reppy Keker.

Spring is here; the conference is upon us. Read the articles, let’s go!

Roselyn Rauch, retired from the Paterson Public School District as an ESL teacher and District ESL Resource Teacher, is a consultant with ESL Unlimited. She may be reached at rrauch@njtesol-njbe.org.

Cassy Lawrence

President's Message

By Cassy Lawrence

Helphers and Helphims

Ihave several “helphers” and “helphims” in my 4th grade dual language classroom. Since September, they’ve learned classroom routines and know what is expected of them at different times in the day. They know what to do, and where everything is; they’re independent when they need to be, and know how to seek help. So it makes me proud to see my kids volunteer to tutor each other, or form small reading circles so they can help a peer to read aloud and develop fluency, or when they rush to my aid when they see me setting up for a lesson.

While conferencing with one of my students during writing, I discovered he had written about himself in a positive light, describing his role in the classroom as “helpher”. This conversation reminded me, for the billionth time, that there are so many words ELLs have to learn.

Another example of clever word-learning took place in Math class recently. We dove into fraction and decimal concepts while conceptualizing parts of shapes. Incorporating higher-order- thinking skills, solving problems, and partaking in student-to-student discourse, we cut a pentagon into fifths, a hexagon into sixths.  When it was time to move on to the next shape, one of my students called out “and a stopagon has eights!”

I firmly believe my students are making progress. I see it every day. It’s in the way the newest arrivals and SIFEs (students with interrupted formal education) have figured out fractions and attempt to explain a problem they’ve solved, mouths contorting to produce terms like “numerator”, “denominator”, “lowest common multiple”, and “greatest common factor”. It’s in the way my mid-level reading group kids are stepping out of their comfort zones and challenging themselves to read more. It’s how my top group wants “more harder” work to do, and in the way they’re eager to support their classmates. Growth is evident in their reading, writing, and math notebooks where I find lines like “I wons tot I wud neber be abo to spik English, but no I help da othes” and “Even thoh 1/7 is less than 1, you still have someting, and thats beter then noting” and “I used to be afraid of fourth grade work, but now I’m in control”. I see growth in my students’ social exchanges, their classroom discussions, vocabulary usage, and in their attitudes toward learning. It’s growth in small steps, often slow, and sometimes all of a sudden. I’m both proud and amazed as I observe it.

As we get closer to Spring Conference on May 29th and 30th , let’s think about the conference theme: Language, Heritage, and Culture – The Magic in English Language Learning. The theme brings to mind enthusiasm, pride, and community. It reminds us of how and why we teach. It describes the great strides our students make despite the many factors that may come into play. It calls to mind a certain kind of magic – the kind that causes you to smile, your jaw to drop, and your heart to swell, because you had something to do with it. YOU are the “helpher” or “helphim”; you help magic happen.

I invite you to join us at the Spring Conference!

Come share and discover – or rediscover – the magic that makes our work so worthwhile.

Cassy Lawrence is a 4th grade dual language teacher in the Perth Amboy Schools district and is President of NJTESOL/NJBE.

Vice President's Message

Ready? Get Set!

By Sandee McHugh-McBride

Our Executive Board is hard at work preparing for this May’s Annual Spring Conference. We are happy to have a variety of topics geared to the teaching needs of our members, spanning preschool all the way through teacher education. Some of our workshops will focus on literacy, technology, writing skills, common core, dual language, technology, assessment, and other issues of concern.  Please feel free to access our tentative list of workshops at our website for an overview of the conference events, keeping in mind that some changes are an inevitable part of conference scheduling.

Please arrive early to begin your day with a light breakfast, juice, coffee, and tea.

Our first keynote speaker, Dr. Nonie Lesaux, will begin her presentation at 8:45am on Day One of our conference, followed by a breakout session. Dr. Mary Ellen Vogt’s keynote will start Thursday at 8:45am, with a breakout session immediately following it. The New Jersey Department of Education will once again join us and present a 90 minute state initiative update each afternoon. Many exhibitors/vendors will be available in the Atrium, Regency, and upstairs areas to provide you with information regarding materials appropriate for your classrooms. You can receive professional development hours for visiting them by having them stamp a card you will find inside your conference booklet.

Lunch will be served from 11:30 until 2:30 to allow everyone ample time to enjoy a bite to eat. Beverages will be available throughout the conference area all day for your convenience.

We expect close to 750 people in attendance each day. Parking directly at the Hyatt hotel is limited, so please plan accordingly. There are numerous parking lots within a short walk to the hotel. In addition, the train station is within walking distance. We hope you will plan to join The President’s Award Reception on Wednesday.

Any new information about the conference will be made available on our website,njtesol-njbe.org. I look forward to seeing you in New Brunswick on May 29th and 30th.

Sandee McBride, Vice President/Conference Chair

Getting the Best Experience from Spring Conference
By Gwen Franks

If you haven’t registered yet there is still time.  You can choose from one of the following three ways:

1. Register online & pay with Paypal or credit card;
2. Print out the form & mail in with a check (must be post marked by May 10th);
3. Print out the form & send in with an approved purchase order (must be sent with the   actual purchase order & postmarked by May 10).

When filling out the registration form, please use your personal email address; many schools are using blockers that will not allow your confirmation to go through. If you have already registered, you should be receiving an email confirmation. Please read the confirmation in full to make sure that your registration is correct. If not, please email Gwen Franks at gfranks@njtesol-njbe.org.

If your school is sending your registration along with the purchase order (PO) and you have not received your confirmation, please double check with your school district FIRST as to the status of the PO and registration before you head to the conference.

Picture ID is now required at Conference Check-In. Two Day Registrants MUST check-in both days. Two-day registrants will receive only ONE conference bag, so remember to bring your bag & name badge the second day.

Check-In opens at 7:30 a.m. and remains open only until 10:00 a.m. There is no check-in after 10:00 a.m. You must check-in to obtain your badge and conference materials before attending any workshops. It is necessary to wear your badge which identifies you as a conference attendee. Badges will be checked throughout the day.

Hotel parking for 400 cars will be available for $6.00 per car for the day. If you park at the Hyatt Hotel you can pre-pay for parking during lunch to help speed up the process of leaving the parking lot at the end of the day.  Additional city parking lots are also available within a few blocks of the hotel at regular rates. Maps and addresses for all parking will be available online soon. Carpooling and public transportation are strongly recommended. The train stop is a short walk from the hotel. New Brunswick is served by NJ Transit buses and trains.

Join your colleagues and NJTESOL/NJBE friends at the President’s Awards Reception after the conference on Wednesday, May 29, at 5:30pm. Light refreshments will be served. The cost is $20.  If you haven’t registered as of yet you can still do so by visiting

Please check your conference confirmation and membership status!
If you received a notice with your confirmation that your membership status is not up to date and have not acted upon it, please be ready to pay for membership at the conference. Your membership must be paid up in order to receive your conference packet.

Exhibits open early, so enjoy a cup of coffee or tea and take a look at the exhibitors’ booths before the workshops begin. The exhibitors will be available from 7:30 am - 5:00 pm on Wednesday and 7:30 am- approximately 3:30 pm on Thursday.

While visiting the exhibitors’ area throughout the day, remember to get your exhibitor card stamped to receive an hour of professional development. This card can be found inside your conference booklets.

Check the conference schedule on our website and plan your day.
For your convenience, our lunch buffet will be continuously served between 11:30 and 2:30.

Professional Development Certificates will be given out at the end of each workshop to those attendees who have been present for the entire workshop. As a courtesy to the presenter and fellow conference participants, it is requested that you arrive to your workshop on time and stay until it ends, at which time the certificates will be distributed.

Directions & Public Transportation to the Hyatt Regency can be found online.
The Hyatt Regency is offering reduced conference prices for overnight stays in their rooms. Mention NJTESOL/NJBE when booking your reservation.

Gwen Franks is the business administrator and a conference planner for NJTESOL/NJBE.
She may be reached at gfranks@njtesol-njbe.org .


In Memoriam

In Memoriam
Patricia Levine
Former NJTESOL/NJBE Executive Board Member: Secretary
Retired ESL teacher  at Colts Neck High School
 (see ESL Secondary SIG article: Collaboration)


In Memoriam
Jessie Reppy Keker
Former NJTESOL/NJBE Executive Board Member
Past director of the ESL program at Kean University
Past director of NYS TESOL

KaHlaw Meh's Story
By Natasha Agrawal

Klaw Meh with Loom

KaHlaw Meh’s story of struggle and survival begins in 1996 in a small village in the Kayah State in Burma. The Karenni community that lives in Kayah State has long sought independence from the military rule of the Burmese generals. Thus, a civil war rages between the rebel Karenni army and the Burmese military.

KaHlaw’s family consists of rice farmers, all without any formal schooling. KaHlaw was only 19, and pregnant with her first child, when the Burmese Army invaded their village. Numerous families, including KaHlaw’s, were forced to flee on foot into the bamboo jungle to escape the Burmese Army. They headed to the Thai border where the Thai government and United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) set up temporary refugee camps. En route to the border, KaHlaw Meh gave birth to her first child in the bamboo jungle, a baby girl.

Once in the refugee camp, KaHlaw and her family built a bamboo hut, their home for the next fourteen years. These camps are surrounded by barbed wire and Thai police who ensure that no refugees escape. Returning to the village is out of the question, and entering Thailand is not permitted either.  Refugees are forced to remain on the border until eligible for resettlement in another country. Resources are also scant; in KaHlaw’s camp, Ban Mai Nai Soi, there is no electricity or plumbing. Additionally, only a fixed amount of rice, beans, and oil comprise UNHCR’s rations for each family. Several refugee agencies work on the Thai-Burma border. They provide limited healthcare, schooling, and aim to resettle some families in other countries.

In her fourteen years at the refugee camp, KaHlaw acquired a new skill--weaving cotton yarn into fabric on a traditional “back strap loom”. Her expertise soon expanded to crafting skirts and bags, all with varieties of designs and patterns. She developed a keen eye for color and the ability to weave English and Karenni letters into her work. This talent eventually led to selling her hand-woven and hand-sewn bags. She says some were even exported.

In 2011, KaHlaw’s family was eligible for resettlement to the United States. Following a lengthy bureaucratic process, the family left the border camp and was taken to Bangkok for a pre-departure orientation. On November 3, 2011, they landed in the United States. Part of the family is resettled in Omaha, NE while KaHlaw and her children are resettled in New Jersey.

Weaving Skills

It takes years to adjust to a new culture and language. KaHlaw and her husband are now employed at Wal-Mart, where she works as a cleaner. While KaHlaw speaks only hesitant and broken English, reliant on her daughter for interpretation, she is excited. Excited that her skill as a weaver can once more become salient, supplement the family income, and express her creativity.

Natasha Agrawal, ESL teacher, Robbins Elementary School, Trenton, NJ

Editor’s note: Come and meet KaHlaw Meh at our Spring Conference where she will demonstrate her weaving skills.

I Wonder
By Elizabeth Franks

With so many changes happening at the same time in education, I have been wondering about how this will impact our English language learners. So I would like to share some of my musings.

I wonder if policy makers and general educators understand that learning a second language is similar to learning a first language – it is a developmental process. Just as we cannot force a two-year old to speak like a five-year old, we cannot expect a newcomer to write a “five-paragraph essay” or to pass a standardized test.

I wonder if the creators of the teacher evaluation model know that English language learners at the lower proficiency levels in lower grade levels make greater gains than ELLs at the higher proficiency levels in higher grade levels. OR will they think that the teachers of beginning level kindergarten and first grade students are superior to high school teachers of intermediate and advanced level students?

I wonder if the developers of the new assessments are thinking of ways to assess the content knowledge without penalizing children who are in the process of learning a second language.

I wonder if the policy makers are crafting an accountability model which will take into consideration an English language learner’s level of English proficiency. If we truly make decisions based on data, then certainly una montaña of data exists that could guide these decision-makers into generating a valid system – one which could truly identify schools and districts that need to reflect on their practices and not stigmatize all schools that have a large proportion of second language learners.

I wonder if general educators, when implementing the Common Core State Standards, know about the Lau v Nichols Supreme Court decision which stated:

There is no equality of treatment merely by providing students with the same facilities, textbooks, teachers, and curriculum; for students who do not understand English are effectively foreclosed from any meaningful education.

I wonder if all educators understand that the CCSS are the outcomes and the pathways to attain these standards may differ for many groups of students. Too often I hear of Language Arts Supervisors or Assistant Superintendents of Curriculum and Instruction dictating that ALL students use the same materials, take the same tests (without accommodations), receive the same delivery of instruction. These practices are in contradiction to the Lau v Nichols decision. These discriminatory practices will not help ELLs attain rigorous standards. 

As we move forward in our rush to raise the rigor and catch up to other nations who are “ahead of us,” I hope we do not lose sight of the beautiful children in front of us. I hope teachers are allowed to practice both the art and science of education. I hope teachers remember to nurture the relationships with their students. I hope we don’t lose our most creative, caring educators. I hope we don’t encourage our brightest and most talented university students to choose another career path.

For those of us who have been in education, who have witnessed the emergence of a brilliant mind, who have nurtured passion in our students, who have created an environment where children did not want to miss a day of school, we know… we know that education is not CCSS, PARCC, McCREL, SGO, and SGP.* We know that education is about children and we just wish some of the other “stakeholders” would just let us teach.

*Common Core State Standards, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning, and Student Growth Objective, Student Growth Percentile

Elizabeth Franks is a former bilingual and ESL teacher and supervisor. She is currently a consultant with LLAMAME, LLC, a part-time lecturer at Rutgers and Kean Universities and the Advocacy representative for NJTESOL/NJBE.

Historically Speaking

By Barbara Tedesco

At the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE) Conference held in Orlando, Florida this past February, it was announced that an inventory of their records, 1977-2012, is being managed through The University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections: Texas Archival Resources Online (http://www.utexas.edu/taro/utsa-00329.html ). When that announcement was made I realized that our very own organization was a forerunner in this initiative albeit not electronically.

Almost 5 years ago NJTESOL/NJBE donated our records to the NJ Hispanic Research & Information Center at The Newark Public Library located at 5 Washington Street in Newark, NJ.  They have been able to organize and create an inventory of our documents from our very beginning in 1969. Those documents include minutes of meetings; advocacy and position papers; publications, such as most Newsletters and our monographs; videotapes from some conferences; correspondence; photos/videos; memorabilia; and special materials related to aspects of our field. Since our organization does not have an office, the Executive Board voted to make this move.

The collections are available for research by appointment only. One must either email www.njhric.npl.org or call the Puerto Rican Community Archives (PRCA) to schedule an appointment at (973) 733-4791.  When you reach out to them, you must indicate what collection you are interested in reviewing. The collections are available from 9am – 3:30pm, Monday through Friday.

If you have anything you would like to contribute, please contact me at btedesco@njtesol-njbe.org, and we can make arrangements to obtain your contributions.

Barbara Tedesco, NJTESOL/NJBE, Historian


Favorite Websites: Google Search Education

By Marilyn Pongracz

Google Search Education, http://www.google.com/insidesearch/searcheducation/, provides several aspects of search help for students and teachers.  First are the search literacy lessons.  These align with Common Core Standards and are available at three levels, so you can choose which is best for your students depending on their ages and language skills.  Each level builds on the previous one and is divided into five key areas:

  1. Picking the right search terms
  2. Understanding search results
  3. Narrowing a search to get the best results
  4. Searching for evidence for research tasks
  5. Evaluating credibility of sources

Each lesson gives the standards, pre-presentation activities, length of the lesson, and notes.  Some lessons have online PowerPoint presentations while others include short lists of resources that you can view, download, and/or print.  There is a teacher’s lesson guide for the presentations and activities, and it includes suggestions for differentiation and enhancement.

To hone students’ search skills, the site offers challenges to students to find specific information on the Web.  However, these have been searched a lot, so the old ones are easy to find.  Additional suggestions for further searches may be more challenging, or you can use http://www.agoogleaday.com/.

Along with lessons and challenges for students, there are two free courses for teachers who want to hone their own skills.  The first, Power Searching, is self-paced.  The second, Advanced Power Searching, is a twelve-lesson, two-week course.  A Google e-mail account is required to register.  The site also has a small archive of Live Trainings webinars that can be viewed at any time.  A sampling of these is, Even Better Search, Successful Queries 1 & 2, Assessing Authority, and more.

This comprehensive site with ready-to-use lessons is valuable to any instructor who is teaching students to do research.

Marilyn Pongracz is the Technology Coordinator for NJTESOL/NJBE and the English Language Resource Center Supervisor at Bergen Community College.


News: Bergen-Passaic Chapter

Spring Workshop Draws Great Attendance

By Janice Silvia Acosta

The Bergen-Passaic NJTESOL/NJBE Chapter held its annual Spring workshop on March 16.  This year the chapter changed its venue to William Paterson University.  The workshop had full attendance for its two notable presenters, Judie Haynes and Karen Nemeth, who presented “Using Internet Resources to Connect, Collaborate and Share: New Ideas for Teachers of ELLs.”  The interactive workshop provided ELL and bilingual teachers many resources available via the Internet. The presenters showed how to incorporate technology in the classroom and differentiate instruction for ELLs.  Social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn were demonstrated as effective and resourceful tools for teaching and building professional relationships. A portion of the workshop focused on specific websites that enhance student learning and understanding of common core standards.  Many participants came ready to learn and interact with the wireless connection offered at the facility.  Even the presentation itself utilized the latest online tools for presenting, sharing, and storing information.  Attendees were given many Web 2.0 tools to take with them and directly use in the classroom.

Thanks to the outstanding presenters, the conference was a resounding success.  Judie Haynes is founder and past chair of our NJTESOL/NJBE Bergen-Passaic chapter as well as past president of NJTESOL/NJBE. She is co-founder and co-moderator of ELLCHAT on Twitter and has published various books. Judie co-authored "The Essential Guide for Educating Beginning English Learners" and "Teaching English Language Learners Across Content Areas" with Debbie Zacarian.  She is the author of "Getting Started with English Language Learners."  Judie is also the creator of everythingESL.net, and she is a professional development provider.  Karen Nemeth is an author, a member of the board of NJTESOL/NJBE, and she is a writer and consulting editor for the National Association for the Education of Young Children.  Three years ago, she was working for the New Jersey Department of Education. When her first book was published, she left that job and started a consulting practice called Language Castle and had to learn all about using the Internet to grow her business. Now she has more than 10,000 followers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.  She has conducted webinars, webcasts and podcasts.

Janice Silvia Acosta is the current chairperson for the Bergen-Passaic Chapter of NJTESOL/NJBE.

Presenters Judie Haynes and Karen Nemeth pictured below.

Judie Haynes


Karen Nemeth