Voices Vol 42 No 3

Special Interest Groups

Bilingual/ESL Middle School

A New Opportunity in the New School Year

By Noreen M. Drucker

Our annual conference is over and it was, once again,  a smashing success. Starting with the keynote speakers and ending with the last workshop on Thursday, it was both informative and enjoyable. I hope you all had a great time and learned a lot of the things that we can  “unpack” in September.

Along with the conference, the results of the election for the NJTESOL/NJBE  Executive Board were announced. After serving two terms as Special Interest Group representative for  ESL grades K-5, I have been elected the Bilingual/ ESL representative for middle school.  Thank you for your support.

I am delighted to take on this new role. My very first teaching experience was  in Costa Rica, where I taught ESL to sixth and seventh graders. There were 37 students in that class and we were working in a building slated to be demolished as soon as the academic year was over.  There were no smart-boards, white boards,  or marker boards of any kind.  Chalk was hard to come by, so you took your piece home in your “gavacha”  every night. If there were photocopy machines, schools could not afford them, so we cut stencils with a knife and then were introduced to the “mimeograph machine." Maybe some of you remember it. It was the purple colored ink on the white paper that reproduced worksheets. If you don’t remember how it looked, you might remember how it smelled.

From there I taught at the Dover Middle School in a bilingual program. I taught all the academic areas in Spanish for many years, and then taught ESL K-8.   I later decided to concentrate on teaching ESL in the elementary schools  and finished my career  at the Randolph Township Public Schools.

I understand that middle school students can be both challenging and delightful.  They are literally caught in the middle and unsure of where they are going. They are growing up. Their  hormones are raging. They are taking chances and trying to define who they are.   While holding on to what they know, they are desperately trying to break away.

ELLs in the middle school face even more challenges. The culture is different and behavior patterns difficult to understand.  They are trying to learn subject material in a language they can barely decipher. Their parents are trying to hold on to them, desperately hoping they can provide some kind of assistance as they  watch their kids stumble through the throes of adolescence in a new land.

When the new school year begins,  we can work together to change these transition years into the wonder years. We can share ideas, strategies, and ways to keep our students engaged.  As ESL teachers we can serve as a resource for the mainstream teacher  trying to differentiate for the ELLs in his/her class.

Have a great, happy, healthy and relaxing summer.

Noreen M. Drucker, SIG Representative for Bilingual/ESL Middle School

Bilingual Elementary 1 - 8

A Great Conference

By Gregory Romero


Our Spring Conference on May 29th and 30th at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Brunswick is now a memory, but not easily forgotten. It was an exciting event filled with wonderful workshops that I can attest to as being energetic and reinvigorating to all of us in the field of education. Every workshop was outstanding with presenters developing topics in the fields of Bilingual Education and ESL. All of this took place in an atmosphere of collegiality that extols our profession. The Hyatt Regency did an outstanding job in accommodating our organization. The food was excellent and the service equally good. The area, as in past years, was inviting and the needs and comfort of our teachers were met.

Both days began with our keynote speakers. Both speakers were incredible presenters whose ideas are well known in our profession and whom our professional colleagues were looking forward to hearing present their ideas. On both occasions, the rooms were packed with teachers feverishly taking notes and asking questions. Nonie Lesaux spoke about reading instruction while Mary Ellen Vogt, of SIOP fame, spoke about academic vocabulary as key to comprehension.

 All of the other workshops during the day were also well received. It was standing room only for the State of New Jersey Department of Education presentation by Raquel Sinai, Lori Ramella, and Kenneth Bond who spoke about State initiatives and changes to testing using the ACCESS for ELLs. Judie Haynes discussed creating a positive learning environment. BJ Franks and Barbara Tedesco presented information about ELLs and Special Education; how do we determine whether an ELL is facing difficulties in second language acquisition versus a real learning disability? Other workshops supplied teachers with ideas to take back to the classroom. Special Interest Group (SIG) meetings helped colleagues meet to discuss issues of importance and hear the viewpoints of others in their field.

The Poster Session display gave all of the attendees the opportunity to see the work of our students who are our central focus when we create workshops for teachers; we want to see our students strive and be the best they can be.

The Awards Dinner held on Wednesday night gave us an opportunity to honor our hard working students and so it was an honor for me to be one of the presenters at that dinner. On behalf of NJTESOL/NJBE, I was honored to present the winner of the 8th grade Writing Challenge. This year’s essay asked students to answer the question, “How does being bilingual make you a better person?” A student from Charles A. Selzer School in Dumont, New Jersey answered this question by saying: “Being bilingual can help me in the future. More and more Americans are partnering up with companies overseas. This increases the demand for bilingual speakers. There are more jobs for bilingual employees.” This ambitious student will have little difficulty finding a job with her ability to speak Urdu, English, and Spanish. Her teacher commented, “She came to Dumont with no language skills in English. With continued support from her family, her hard work on English activities, and her earnest desire to complete oral and writing activities, she has succeeded and excels in her subject areas.” I was proud to announce Amelia Peter as this year’s winner of the NJTESOL/NJBE’s 8th grade Writing Challenge.

The teachers attending this year’s conference walked away from the events with new insights and professional tools that will serve them well in their schools and help their students make progress. The workshops were of a high caliber and the various educational companies and publishers were able to speak to those products and materials that can aide in the instruction of our students. There were products for all members including new materials to help address the need of helping students meet the skills of the ACCESS for ELLs and new foreign language materials for bilingual education classes in languages other than Spanish.

Gregory Romero, Bilingual Elementary SIG

Early Childhood

Spring Conference Notes

By Monica Schnee

This year’s conference was another great chance to learn from our colleagues and the keynote speakers. The schedule was packed with useful workshops and there was a wonderful buzz. It was a huge success!

Our SIG meetings were extremely well attended. We shared a lot of tips and helpful information. Here are the highlights:


Parent Involvement

Reaching out to parents through different outreach activities:

Collaboration with classroom and content area teachers

We are moving towards a more rigorous time for our kindergartners. One very important way in which we can support them through the demands of meeting kindergarten expectations is to work in collaboration with classroom, content, and special area teachers.

I presented two different workshops, one with a kindergarten teacher, the other with the library/media specialist in our school. The most powerful conclusion of both experiences is that we are language experts and that it is our time to share what we do with the other practitioners in our district.

We need to work in the classrooms, side by side with the teachers, to support them so they can integrate our best practices and strategies to help our ELLs succeed as well as all learners succeed. We need to be in the classrooms to learn what the monolingual students can do so we can have a true measure of classroom expectations. We need to collaborate, co-teach and team-teach to focus on our students in the general classroom and make them shine though our scaffolding and differentiating to meet their language needs.

We have our WIDA Standards that are aligned with the CCCS. We should look at those Student Learning Objectives as a team, a partnership with the classroom and content area teachers. We have a document that was developed with our students in mind in the NJDOE Bilingual website. Let’s use it to our advantage.

As this school year ends, let us think of ways in which we can begin new partnerships. As the next school year begins, let us implement ways in which we can collaborate to make those partnerships stronger.

Monica Schnee
PreK-Kindergarten SIG
River Edge School District


American University Ad
     EMAIL American UniversityApply Here Today!American University TESOL Program


ESL Secondary

Resources for Hot Topics

By Caia Schlessinger

I was honored to hold the position of NJTESOL/NJBE Secondary ESL Special Interest Group Representative for two consecutive terms. In May, I was elected Secretary of the NJTESOL/NJBE Executive Board. I am proud to introduce Marcella Garavaglia as your new Secondary ESL Special Interest Group. She currently teaches ESL at Colts Neck High School, part of the Freehold Regional High School District. Marcella is a dynamic teacher who is dedicated to her students. I’m proud that she has joined the NJTESOL/NJBE Executive Board.

Our Secondary ESL Special Interest Group met on both days of the conference. It was such a pleasure to meet so many SIG members and to discuss topics of interest together. As you all know, ESL programs vary immensely in size, organization, and content delivery. Here is a list of some of the hot topics that we explored together:

NJTESOL/NJBE, Inc. Summer SIOP Institute:

ESL Certification and the Highly Qualified Teacher Initiative:

World language Graduation Requirements for High School ELLs:

2013-2014 ACCESS for ELLs Timeline:

Alignment of CCSS to WIDA ELD Standards:

PARCC Accommodations:

Caia Schlessinger is Secretary of the NJTESOL/NJBE Executive Board. She teaches ESL at Colt Neck High School for the Freehold Regional High School District. She may be reached at cschlessinger@njtesol-njbe.org


Higher Education

The Challenges of Higher Education

By Howard Pomann

As the new Higher Education Representative, I am honored to serve on the NJTESOL/NJBE Board. I look forward to the opportunity of supporting faculty efforts to enhance English for Academic Purposes (EAP) programs at 2 year and 4 year colleges and universities and to helping create stronger ties with secondary and adult education members. 

Higher Education EAP programs in New Jersey successfully serve beginning to advanced students with a variety of backgrounds—including students who earned their high school or advanced degree in their country, or began their US education in middle school or high school.  Over the next year, I hope we can share our most effective methodologies with each other in meeting the academic English needs of our students, as well as our administrative approaches to providing strong access, enhanced opportunities for ladders of completion and graduation, program assessment, and broad counseling services.

I would like to thank everyone who presented at this year’s NJTESOL/NJBE conference.  The Higher Education presentations included informative, innovative workshops on critical thinking, contextualized grammar instruction, academic writing and editing, program redesign, and enhancement of community.   This coming year, there will be a Higher Education Strand on the first day of the conference, May 28th.  We would like to encourage all to submit proposals.

Currently, there are many challenges facing Higher Education EAP programs nationally and in New Jersey.  I look forward to working with you, the NJTESOL/NJBE Board and other SIG members to enhance our students’ ability to pursue their career and academic goals.

Howard Pomann, Director of the Institute for Intensive English at Union County College
pomann@ucc.edu , 908-965-6030


Parent/Community Action

Big Ideas about Parent and Community Action
By Karen Nemeth

We had two meetings of the Parent and Community Action SIG at the NJTESOL/NJBE conference in May and both of them brought together participants from a variety of positions, locations and experiences.  I’ll share some of them here and invite readers to send me new ideas to include in future articles.

We heard about programs that invited families in to do all kinds of tasks to build the quality of their programs.  We also heard about programs that offer all kinds of services that families need so they can feel more supported and involved in the school.  We heard about families networking with other organizations such as www.firstbooks.org or their local library to make sure the families get what they need to build family strength and support their child’s learning. 

One participant shared that, in his district, families are given membership cards that get punched when the parents attend school events so they can earn ‘rewards’, attend family movie nights, and have access to other discounts and activities. 

Kate Sa, ESL teacher for parents in New Brunswick, submitted this great example:  We partnered with the State Theater in New Brunswick who provided free tickets to a production of “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.” They also included an after- show reception for our families complete with refreshments and photo ops for the children with 'Sylvester' and other characters.

Our part was to provide the “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble” book in both English and Spanish for each family. We had no funds available to buy the books, so I applied and was awarded a grant from the New Brunswick Education Foundation. Prior to the show, the parents read and studied the book in class and practiced reading it with their children at home. By the time the show came, the children were very familiar with the story which made their experience so much richer. It was such a fun and exciting day for everybody.

As a follow-up activity, the parents received construction paper and crayons to take home, and the children drew pictures and/or wrote about their favorite part of the story and performance. The parents brought the artwork back to class where we discussed it and set up a display. This was a first for many of our families, and many expressed an interest in returning to the State Theater on their own.

Social media was found to be an important strategy to get families involved, to share ideas,  and to get the community involved in supporting the families.  Don’t forget to follow #ELLCHAT on Twitter and the NJTESOL/NJBE Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/NJTESOL.NJBE

For the future, we hope that working together in the Parent/Community Action SIG will allow us to address unmet needs.  Many districts are struggling to find materials and resources in the many languages of the children, so participants would like to find a way to coordinate a network for sharing whatever they have in different languages.   If you have additional questions or suggestions please email me.

New resource from the Foundation for Child Development:
“Children in Immigrant Families: Essential to America’s Future – the FCD Child and Youth Well-Being Index Policy Brief”  http://fcd-us.org/node/1232

Karen Nemeth, Coordinator, Parent and Community Action SIG             Karen@languagecastle.com


Special Education

The New Adventures of Old Special Education SIG Representative

By Sharon A. Hollander

For me, the Spring Conference was like coming home again. I was the Special Education SIG Representative from 2002 to 2007 or thereabouts. After some time building my family, I presented at the 2012 Fall Conference on Bilingual Learners and Special Needs at Stockton, and I was lucky enough to return to the Executive Board with the recent election.

I am a bit different from most Board or organization members. I work outside the public school system. I am a Psychologist at Children’s Specialized Hospital (CSH), a large network of pediatric rehabilitation facilities throughout the state. My primary role is assessment and diagnosis of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other disabilities. I work closely with physicians and nurse practitioners, as well as speech, occupational, and physical therapists. I interact with special and general educators, Child Study Team (CST) members, and other school-based professionals in a variety of ways. Most importantly, I am, as they say, an exceptional parent.

It was a pleasure to meet and talk to members at the Special Education SIG meetings during the Spring Conference. Your concerns are important to me, and I know they include parent and teacher advocacy, specialized instruction for students in secondary and higher education settings, transparency in the referral and evaluation process, and communication and collaboration with different professionals and departments in the school system. Crisis intervention and better ways to address the needs of culturally and linguistically (CLD) students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) were also discussed.  I will explore these topics via the Hotlist, Voices articles, and conference presentations, and I invite you to do the same.

As the SIG Representative, I would like to share my areas of interest and concern. The issue of under-identification of diverse children with disabilities immediately comes to mind. Social skills interventions for ELLs/bilingual students also warrant more attention. In addition, the gap between research and practice remains perilously large.  One solution: I want research and other types of information about special education and disabilities to come directly to members.

Retailers are doing a wonderful job of staying in touch with actual and potential customers, and professional resources can do the same. Below a few links. Please check them out, bookmark them, sign up for e-newsletters, Like them on Facebook, whatever it takes to get the information to you.

The Statewide Parenting Advocacy Network for New Jersey

A good source for news on disabilities

Statewide network of parents and professionals interested in Autism Spectrum Disorders

National organization for professionals who work with children with disabilities, a counterpart to TESOL and NABE

I look forward to my term on the Board, and I welcome additional suggestions for relevant links and any other email from members.

Sharon A. Hollander is a Psychologist at Children’s Specialized Hospital, 94 Stevens Road, Toms River 08755


On Starting the Conversation

By JoAnne M. Negrín

I was completely blown away by the response, both in terms of attendance and audience participation, to my Using the New Evaluation System for ELLs workshop. I was also pleased that so many participants were teachers even though the tone of the workshop was supervisory. I think that the reason that the new evaluation system is such a “hot topic” for all of us is because we are all searching for a greater understanding of what these new metrics will mean for us as individuals and as a profession that by definition is dedicated to students who struggle. As the Supervisors’ SIG representative, I feel a special responsibility to provide inspiration and guidance both to new supervisors who are learning the ESL/BE fields and to those members of the teaching staff who are the lone advocates for our students.

As ESL/BE professionals, we have long lamented our isolation from the mainstream and the lack of knowledge of and appreciation for our students. If you saw the presentation, you know that I believe that now is the perfect time to have that conversation in your school or district.  AchieveNJ holds all educators (including administration) accountable for the success of all students. The Common Core State Standards emphasize oral academic language development and the need for cross-curricular communication. The new evaluation models emphasize continuous teacher development that includes a greater understanding of all students and the best means by which to educate them. This confluence of events creates a perfect storm of opportunity. We are all in the same boat in that perfect storm, and we will sink or swim together based on how well we respond as individuals, schools, and districts to the needs of our student population.

I would encourage you to learn as much as you can about the ever-evolving AchieveNJ. I think that you will find there an effective tool for impressing upon your colleagues and bosses the importance of increased collaboration. If you learn more about the Common Core, you will discover that language teachers are really on the cutting edge of the movement, as we have been doing for years many of the things that all teachers are now being asked to do. As such, you can present yourself as a true asset to your school. Finally, study the evaluation model that will be used in your district. It also offers many opportunities to encourage all teachers to care about best practices for ELLs as they reach for that distinguished level of performance.

Knowledge is power. By making yourself the resident expert on these aspects of the new evaluation system, you can become the person or group that changes the conversation in your school or district. And no great change has ever come about without first changing the conversation.

JoAnne M. Negrín is Supervisor of ESL, Bilingual Education, World Languages, and Performing Arts at Vineland Public Schools.
jnegrin@vineland.org or  jnegrin@njtesol-njbe.org