From The Editor

Happy New Year 2014!

By Roselyn Rauch

Happy New Year, Everyone. Wishing you all the best, personally and professionally. We are continuing this school year fraught with high expectations for both students and teachers where fraught might be fright. The lingo of academic education is loaded with SGPs,  SGOs, PARCC, ACCESS, CCCS, and many more acronyms. Just read through the Special Interest Group articles; it is unusual if these and many other alphabet stews are not mentioned. This leads Gregory Romero to write: “Olsen and Anderson (2007) found that given time, new teachers would be able to adjust and grow professionally as teachers learning to like their jobs and their students so that they remained in education despite everything thrown at them…” [What a way to start a career!]

If you are a member of NJEA, you have just received your January Review. What’s on the cover? Goodbye NJASK; So long HSPA; Hello, PARCC. And if you go on to page 28 (Time capsule 2013: educational trends of the year,) you’ll see that now there are MOOCs (massive, open online courses,) “flipped classrooms,” BYODs (bring your own devices), augmented reality, gamification, and genius hour. How will these impact your ELL populations? We will have to wait and see. Good luck to you all!

And yet with all  of the changes going on in education, be they on the state or national level, there is still a dedicated-- no, devoted-- group of people who still see teaching as their calling. This month we begin a new Student Representative Special Interest Group: Gordon Rowan and Bianca Rivera, graduate students at Rutgers in New Brunswick, are serving as co-student representatives this year and working to establish this position and advocate for students in teacher education programs. Welcome aboard.

Vice President and Conference Chair Sandee McBride gives you a glimpse into our keynote speakers for our spring event, widely renowned Drs. Deborah Short and Diane August.  Tina Kern, our liaison, introduces a new scholarship in memory of Jessie Reppy that will be awarded along with the others we bestow on deserving individuals at that time.  Howard Pomann, in his Higher Education SIG piece, prepares us for A Higher Education Workshop Strand at 2014 Spring Conference.

We continue to follow the progress of an adult ESL student, KaHlaw Meh, in Natasha Agrawal’s chronicles of our weaver-in-residence at last year’s conference. Both BJ Franks and Barbara Tedesco report on WIDA: the former starting a regular column on WIDA resources (guiding principles in this issue) and the latter with her experiences at the first annual WIDA convention in Milwaukee. In The Benefits of Bilingualism – The Seal of Biliteracy  by Elizabeth (BJ) Franks and Jean Modig, we are informed how New Jersey is following California’s model “to celebrate and recognize graduating seniors who can demonstrate proficiency in two languages.“

Marilyn Pongracz’s Favorite Websites in this edition: “Interesting Things for ESL Students, www.ManyThings.org, offers numerous good activities for supplemental English practice for middle school through adult learners who use computers and some of the newest materials are compatible with mobile devices. “ As usual, she gives useful site navigation advice.

In Success with ACCESS:  An Alternate Perspective,  Maggie Churchill reports on the Alternate ACCESS for ELLs.  “This WIDA-designed assessment affords a rare opportunity for this sub-group of ELLs [with cognitive disabilities]  to demonstrate growth across six levels of English language proficiency, and an even rarer glimpse at student performance strengths…”

Be sure to read Marcella Garavaglia’s (ELLs, the PARCC Exam, and High School Graduation ) and Joanne Negrin’s  (The PARCC* Threat to Bilingual Education and Native Language Support: What You Can Do About It ) SIG articles about this particular testing instrument. Ponder Teacher Educators: Bridging Theory and Practice by Mary Curran and  The Truth About Social Skills: Practice Makes Perfect  by Sharon A. Hollander. In her Special Interest Group article, Noreen Drucker recaps The 2013 NJEA Conference: Over But Not Forgotten. And mentioned last, though certainly not of least importance, Monica Schnee tells us about Lessons Learned and To Be Learned.

This is another edition chock-a-block with information for all: I encourage all readers to read through each issue – the work of each of us impacts all and we need to know what is going on across the board.

And remember, when you are feeling OMG that you can’t take it anymore and are not ROTFLOL, NJTESOL/NJBE is here for you- 24/7. Contact your  Executive Board members, your chapter peers, and use the Hotlist. We are your lifeline in these interesting and sometimes difficult times.

Looking forward,

Roselyn Rauch, Ed. D, 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.

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Announcing our 2014 Spring Conference:

Pathways for the Next Generation of Language Learners

May 28 (Wednesday) & 29 (Thursday)
Hyatt Regency Hotel, New Brunswick

The 2014 spring conference registration form is now available on-line at

Please take note of your membership expiration date when signing up for the conference and renew as necessary. This will save you time when registering on conference day. Your membership expiration date is after your name in the letter that announces Voices.


Cassy Lawrence

President's Message

By Cassandra Lawrence

Take Charge, Slow Down


As president of NJTESOL/NJBE, I should impart some sort of “wisdom” to our membership, say something truly inspiring, or share the latest research to affirm or redirect our efforts. When in a position of leadership, you want to say or do something that will be memorable. I’m a classroom teacher though, and like many of you, I struggle with the reality of teaching in a test-crazy, data-obsessed environment. I’d like to be totally excited about the newest classroom literacy initiatives and technology integration, and throw myself into the most effective standards implementation – but it doesn’t all add up. How can these conflicting philosophies result in success for our students? Almost halfway through this school year, I’m concerned about how it’ll all turn out. We’re trying to do too much all at once, and not taking the time to see if it all works.

Teaching is a matter of justice and equity to me. No matter how much money is spent, no matter how many new and contrived initiatives are put in place, and no matter how much the school “provides” my students – none of it means much if I don’t try my best to make it all work. I have to stand firm and stand up for my students. I can’t allow them to be overlooked. My students will not be an afterthought. I will question decisions, and while asking may not always be welcome, it will open my eyes to the realization that those in charge don’t always know the answers. From the quality of the meals served to my students, to the number of hours spent on testing, to appropriate placement of my students, my mission will always be to do what I can to improve the conditions under which my students learn.

In doing so, I often have to stop myself and reexamine my motives. Causes often take on a life of their own; we risk losing sight of those we work so hard to help. In Teachers: How Slowing Down Can Lead to Great Change, Edutopia contributor Elena Aguilar suggests we take a look at the incessant rush of our profession and slow down. We’ve been brainwashed into thinking faster is better. I’m no different. The pressures of lesson plans, observations, SGOs, standards, and the thousands of other daily bits to deal with – have me on a rollercoaster. Aguilar points to a more thoughtful, focused, nurturing approach to school. If slow and steady wins the race, then that is the ride I’d like to take with my students.

As we welcome a New Year with all its fresh starts and possibilities, I look forward as well. I was placed here to guide my students toward success. I will prioritize learning in my classroom, and nurture relationships with my students and their families. Despite the chaos, I’ll stay focused on what matters most.

Cassy Lawrence is a 3rd grade dual language teacher in the Perth Amboy Schools district. She is the president of NJTESOL/NJBE.


Vice President's Message

Spotlight on the 2014 Spring Conference Keynote Speakers

By Sandee McBride

Our keynote speaker for Wednesday, May 28, will be Dr. Deborah Short. She is currently serving on international TESOL’s Board of Directors as the director of Academic Language Research & Training. Dr. Short provides professional development on sheltered instruction and academic literacy around the U.S. and abroad. She was the Division Director at the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) in Washington, DC where she co-developed the SIOP® Model for sheltered instruction. She has directed national research studies on English language learners for the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the U.S. Dept. of Education. She chaired an expert panel on adolescent ELL literacy. She has numerous publications, including the SIOP® “Making Content Comprehensible” book series, “Using THE SIOP MODEL with Pre-K and Kindergarten English Learners,” and several ESL textbook series for National Geographic/Cengage. She has taught English as a second/foreign language in New York, California, Virginia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Making her way from California for Thursday’s conference on the 29th of May, keynote speaker Dr. Diane August, will focus on the topic of English language learners and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). She is an expert in developing STEM  [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] and literacy for second-language learners in Grades PK–12. She has assisted in the development of the ELA standards. She continues in that capacity by providing professional development and creating curricular materials enabling ELLs to meet the new CCSS. Dr. August was on the National Literacy Panel on Language Minority Children and Youth, the steering committee of the Understanding Language Initiative, the New York State Common Core National Advisory Group, and currently serves on the PARCC Accessibility, Accommodations, and Fairness Technical Working Group. She was formerly a senior research scientist at the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) where she investigated a series of experimental studies that designed, developed, and tested curricula and teaching methods to help ELLs meet state and district standards in literacy and science. Dr. August began her career as an English language arts teacher in California, working with both ELLs and English proficient students.  She received her Ph.D. from Stanford University, specializing in second-language and cognitive development.

We look forward to having them share their expertise with us.

Sandee McBride is our Vice President and Conference Chair.


Socio-Political Concerns

The Benefits of Bilingualism — The Seal of Biliteracy

By Elizabeth (BJ) Franks and Jean Modig

In conjunction with the Foreign Language Educators of NJ (FLENJ), NJTESOL/NJBE is embarking on a journey to celebrate and recognize graduating seniors who can demonstrate proficiency in two languages. New Jersey would be joining several states which are moving forward with similar initiatives, thus positioning itself as a leader in language education, global citizenship and 21st-century learning. Our vision is to help students recognize the value of their academic effort and to see the tangible benefits of being bilingual.

Both California and New York have already passed legislation to offer a “Seal of Biliteracy.” New Jersey is following California’s model by beginning the initiative as a grassroots project. This year, seven districts have volunteered to pilot the criteria established by FLENJ and NJTESOL/NJBE: Linden, Mahwah, Perth Amboy, Plainfield, Princeton, Vineland, and Washington Township.

The purposes for instituting a seal of biliteracy are numerous:


Students will need to meet certain criteria in English and a world language as measured by standardized World Language and English assessments.

The seven districts will be honored at our Awards Reception at the Spring Conference in addition to announcing the students who will qualify as the first Seal of Biliteracy recipients. FLENJ and NJTESOL/NJBE are grateful to the pilot districts for their assistance in developing the appropriate criteria. Once the criteria are set, the guidelines will be published for any district which would like to honor and recognize their bilingual students.

Jean Modig is president of FLENJ and BJ Franks is the advocacy representative for NJTESOL/NJBE and an independent consultant at LLAMAME, LLC.


Interesting Things for ESL Students, www.ManyThings.org

By Marilyn Pongracz

Q: There are innumerable websites and apps that are written for, or can be used for, educational purposes, but which ones are suitable for English language learners?  How can you find something that will work for your students and meet the curriculum requirements?

A: Come to the 2014 Spring Conference and see what other teachers are doing.

In my search for a site to review, I came across a familiar one that’s been online since 1997. Interesting Things for ESL Students, www.ManyThings.org, offers numerous good activities for supplemental English practice for middle school through adult learners who use computers and some of the newest materials are compatible with mobile devices.

The drop-down menu is divided into the categories of vocabulary, grammar, reading with audio, listening, other, and iPad.  Since there is so much content which has been added over the years, it can take a little searching to return to an activity.  There is also a right-side menu with more specific categories, and a main page menu that lists activities by technical requirements and date.  Many of the activities are linked to Voice of America’s (VOA) special English and Activities for ESL Students http://a4esl.org, a site also begun by the author of Interesting Things for ESL Students, Charles Kelly.

One feature is a set of links to the Voice of America’s Special English (ESL) classroom activities.  (Found under the menu option, “other.”) Some are short articles with audio followed by comprehension questions.  Others are videos which cover every day situations such as what to say to introduce two people in a business setting.  After a few slides, there are multiple choice questions which review the content.

From the right side menu of the home page, for beginners, there are English vocabulary games with pictures and different activities for matching words and pictures.  Proverbs and jokes have matching and fill-in quizzes, and there are songs for reading and listening.  Multiple choice grammar quizzes are based on VOA Special English programs.  The content of the quizzes is taken directly from the programs for mixed grammar practice.  Also linked from the right side menu are scrambled sentence activities.

For pronunciation, a student may listen to and repeat sentences or choose the spoken word from minimal pairs.  The sounds in these activities are those that often confuse students such as /r/ and /l/.  For more challenging listening practice there is an audio concentration game.  The iPad activities are mostly text on slides with audio.  While some of the older Java and CGI pages don’t work, there is plenty of practice to make this site worth exploring.

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



Remembering Jessie

By Tina Kern

The first time I met Jessie it was immediately obvious that she was an exceptional person: knowledgeable and committed to English as a Second Language. I knew I wanted to work with her and learn from her.  Her dedication as the director of ESL programs at Kean University in Union, NJ was quite evident.

Jessie touched many people in this way.  She influenced and mentored many students as well as future educators.  When I learned that someone wanted to start a scholarship in her memory, it was so fitting that Jessie’s influence and passion would be remembered in this way.

Dr. Jessie M. Reppy (1941 – 2013) was an educator, a leader, and an author.  She was a member of NYTESOL, NJTESOL/NJBE, and international TESOL.  Not only did she actively participate but she also frequently presented at conferences.

Dr. Reppy was well respected in the field of ESL. She was the director of both the ESL program and the Resource Center for Language Minority Students at Kean University.  She served as the chair of the NJ Statewide Higher Education ESL Conference for several years. Jessie taught at NYU, Brooklyn College, Staten Island Community College, and Kean University. Overseas, she taught and consulted in several locations in Asia. She was the co-author of three reading books for ESL students.

Dr. Helen Aron, a colleague and friend of Jessie’s, recounts Jessie’s dedication and her commitment to students.  She further remembers how Jessie was a perfectionist and strived to always do her best, whether as a teacher, as a presenter, as a writer, or leader.

Jessie was very brave, having fought multiple myeloma and its complications for many years. Helen further writes,  “I am a better person for having had Jessie Reppy as my friend.”

Jessie will be remembered fondly and her legacy and passion will continue to impact our field, thanks to the new Dr. Jessie Reppy Memorial Scholarship. With this $1500 annual scholarship, Jessie will reach out and help a graduate student who is studying for a master’s degree in bilingual or ESL education.

We are honored to be a part of the Dr. Jessie Reppy Memorial Scholarship. I wish to personally thank Dr. Helen Aron for “remembering Jessie.” Above all, NJTESOL/NJBE wants to gratefully acknowledge Helen Aron for initiating this scholarship and whose generosity helped make it possible. 

We look forward to meeting the first recipient of this award at our annual NJTESOL/NJBE Spring Conference in May at the Hyatt in New Brunswick, NJ.

Tina Kern, NJTESOL/NJBE Liaison

Please Note:
In addition to our newest scholarship, we also offer the following awards:

Please visit our website where deserving individuals can apply for these scholarship awards.

You can show your support by donating so that you, too, can honor our students and future educators. Thank you.


What's New at WIDA? What resources are available on the WIDA website?

By Elizabeth Franks

In each edition of Voices,  we will highlight different documents that are available at www.wida.us . In this edition, we encourage teachers to check the cornerstone of the WIDA standards in the Ten Guiding Principles of Language Development. These guidelines set the foundation for the standards as well as cite the research that explains language development. It is a valuable resource to share with your general education colleagues about the second language acquisition process.

Of particular note are principles 8, 9, and 10. Guiding principle 8 recognizes the relationship between academic language and academic content knowledge which supports the necessity of teaching language connected to the content standards. The ninth principle states the fact that students’ development of social, instructional and academic language is a long-term process. This is a fact which must be shared with administrators and policy-makers. ELLs will not grow from ELP 1 to ELP 5 overnight.

The last guiding principle is perhaps the most important one: “students’ access to instructional tasks requiring complex thinking is enhanced when linguistic complexity and instructional support match their levels of language proficiency.” It is critical that we differentiate our instruction and assessments based on student’s level of English language proficiency. The performance definitions amplified in the 2012 standards clearly state what can be expected according to the three performance criteria (linguistic complexity, language forms and conventions and vocabulary usage.) 

So take a minute and click on this link to view the Guiding Principles of Language Development. Then discuss with a colleague how these principles impact your work.


BJ Franks is the socio-political concerns representative for NJTESOL/NJBE and an independent consultant at LLAMAME, LLC.



The WIDA 2013 National Conference

By Barbara Tedesco

THE PLACE? Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  THE DATE?  October 17-19, 2013. THE PURPOSE? To attend WIDA’s first National Conference - Language Learner Success: Building on Strengths

Who was there? 400 educators including yours truly along with Dr. Elizabeth “BJ” Franks and Margaret “Maggie” Churchill.

Milwaukee was chosen because it is the “home state” for WIDA and because it is rich in diversity. From the brief time I was there I was able to witness firsthand the diversity. Plus, it is rich in history not just Laverne and Shirley and “cheesehead” hats but the Harley-Davidson Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Milwaukee Pubic Museum, and Lake Michigan to name a few attractions.

The keynoters included Dr. Kathy Escamilla who spoke on Improving Literacy/Biliteracy Learning for Emerging Bilingual Students; Dr. Michael Hinojosa who told his story of A Family’s Journey to Success: Another Anecdote or Potential Movement?; Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings addressed Escaping the ‘Gap’ Language: Revitalizing Urban Education One Teacher at a Time; and, Dr. Aída Walqui explained Scaffolding: The Metaphor, and the Pedagogical Application.

There were ten concurrent workshops per timeslot and it was difficult to make a choice. Fortunately, the three of us split up and shared our notes.  For a look at the program, go to http://www.widaconference.us/WIDA_conference_program.pdf . Just reading the descriptions can provide you with insights into what is happening in the field and at WIDA.

Our own Maggie Churchill was selected to facilitate a Detailed Roundtable Discussion.  Her topic was Scaffolded Curriculum for ELLs. In addition, there were site visits to the Milwaukee Public Schools and Pre-Conference Institutes: Margo Gottlieb, who spearheaded the design and development of the WIDA English Language Development Standards; and  Jeff Zweirs, author of Building Academic Language and co-author of Academic Conversations (must reads!)

I look forward to attending the 2014 WIDA National Conference - Creating Language-Rich Academic Learning Environments, October 23-25 in Atlanta, Georgia. I hope to see more New Jersey faces there.

For information about attending or regarding the call for proposals, visit the WIDA Conference website at www.widaconference.us.

Barbara Tedesco, NJTESOL/NJBE Historian; Co-Manager of LLAMAME, LLC
908-472-2499  babted@aol.com

Ka Hlaw Meh: The Artist

"But I can't speak English"

By Natasha Agrawal

It is a remarkable transformation.  From the quiet, homesick woman that I first met, KaHlaw Meh is developing into a confident artist. Her smile is wider; her eyes, brighter. She is beginning to express herself, not only through her brightly colored hand woven bags and scarves, but also in her clear and audible English sentences.  This month when I was introducing her to a group of artists at the Grounds for Sculpture, she surprised me by chiming in with “But I can’t speak English!”

It is clear that Ka Hlaw has made great strides in her level of English acquisition.  She has been attending ESL classes run by Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey in Trenton. In addition, Tim Hall of the College of New Jersey has regularly instructed her and the family in ESL. Ka Hlaw’s vocabulary has grown by leaps and bounds. As we walked around the sculpture garden, her reactions were peppered with excited exclamations of “Wow!” and “I have never seen this!” When meeting new people, Ka Hlaw is now able to introduce herself and even have a short conversation.

The Artists-in-Education Consortium was held at the breathtaking Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton.  Ka Hlaw presented a workshop on ethnic weaving entitled Folk Arts in Education: Weaving. Simply dressed in a hand-woven bright blue traditional skirt and her waist length dark braid, Ka Hlaw stood out among the artists. Her back strap loom, and her ethnic style of weaving inspired great interest. Artists crowded around her to observe every move that her skilful fingers made.  They peered over her shoulders and squatted on the floor with her.  Enjoying their attention, Ka Hlaw explained her weaving technique as best as she could. Even when she didn’t have the vocabulary to answer a question directly, she replied with a gesture.  When a sympathetic teacher asked if her weaving posture caused backaches, Ka Hlaw demonstrated a backstretch to explain her answer.

In Burma and Thailand, Ka Hlaw Meh lived in small bamboo huts, among rice paddies, coconut and palm trees.  At Grounds for Sculpture, her eyes lit up as we examined a variety of bamboo and palm trees.  Before we returned home, Ka Hlaw uttered one more sentence in perfect English. “I’m happy today.” A displaced refugee weaver is finding solace, peace and self-esteem in her adopted country.

Natasha Agrawal, ESL Teacher, Carroll Robbins Elementary School, Trenton, NJ

Success with ACCESS:

An Alternate Perspective

By Maggie Churchill

D o you have special needs ELLs with cognitive disabilities?  Then, consider the Alternate ACCESS for ELLs.  This WIDA-designed assessment affords a rare opportunity for this sub-group of ELLs to demonstrate growth across six levels of English language proficiency, and an even rarer glimpse at student performance strengths, a valuable asset that can be shared with child study team members and parents.

The WIDA website, http://www.wida.us/assessment/AlternateACCESS.aspx, provides an overview of participation criteria, preparation, administration, and scoring.  Prospective students should already have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that indicates significant cognitive disabilities and be participating in the state’s alternate accountability assessment in lieu of NJASK exams.  In order to administer the test, qualified teachers should first take additional online tutorials.  Now is the time to complete certified training if you plan to administer the test in March 2014.  In-depth understanding of test administration and prior practice facilitates the experience for both teacher and student.  Prior knowledge of a student’s IEP and allowable accommodations is required.

Orders must be placed separately from your bulk district order on Metritech’s website, https://www.metritech.com/wida/login.aspx.  Test administration and student response booklets will arrive separately and must be returned in kind.

Embedded in the administration of the exam is the establishment of attention to task, always the first question within tiered groupings. Teacher modeling is an essential component prior to eliciting student response.  Students are provided with three opportunities to achieve successful responses prior to teacher scoring. The experience is similar to the kindergarten hand-scoring system. Sample items are available as a downloadable PDF from the WIDA website. Questions are focused on socio-cultural contexts with academic language introduced in the 6-8 grade level cluster.

Parents should receive a copy of the performance definitions with their child’s score report which explains the criteria for meeting the expectations at each proficiency level.  A menu of downloadable documents is available at the WIDA website.

Maggie Churchill, ESL Coordinator, Closter Public Schools