Special Interest Groups

Bilingual/ESL Middle School

Celebrating Success

By Noreen M. Drucker

Ihope that many of you had the opportunity to attend our annual conference in May. It was very successful and provided many teachers with new insights to teaching and answers to some of the questions that were on their minds. The workshops were both informative and inspirational.

There were many ESL and mainstream teachers at the conference; all of us teach for the kid’s sake. We care for and about them. We make our classroom lands of learning where affective filters are down and hearts are open. We teach them the way they learn, not necessarily the way we were taught to teach.

All the students who have come through our doors have touched our lives in some way.  Some students were able to surmount all of the obstacles in front of them and some were only able to face one or two of them. Some had many successes and for some success was limited. In this world of high stakes testing and the Common Core Standards, success becomes harder to attain.

But there have been ELLs whose success in school and in the real world has been sensational! Let me tell you about MC. MC’s parents left her with her grandparents in Asia for 2 years while they worked and got settled in the United States. She came to our school in second grade with no English whatsoever. She was literate in Mandarin. Because I was full time in one school, we were able to provide her with as much ESL as possible. She was in a homeroom with other ELLs that provided support and understanding, even though the only language they had in common was the one they were learning. The classroom teacher and I spoke constantly about the best ways to teach MC.

MC exited the program in 2 years and scored at the proficiency level on the NJ ASK in 4th grade.  Her family moved to another district when she started middle school. There she demonstrated tremendous talent in art and science.

Just as she started high school, the family moved to yet another school district. MC won many prizes for her work in science, especially microbiology, at her new school.  Her work, both in art and science was recognized on a national level. She was the valedictorian at her high school graduation. She spoke flawless English with such confidence, grace,  and poise that no one would believe that once she was a scared little girl who spoke no English.

MC just finished her sophomore year at Yale, where she is studying microbiology. She uses her bilingual skills when she works as a tour guide. She plays the violin and enhances some of the drama club’s work with her art. And those are only some of the things she does besides studying.

This year, during her summer vacation, MC will be working with a major pharmaceutical company that has special programs for college students studying microbiology. Her hard work and dedication are evident wherever she goes.

I have been very lucky to have had a student like MC in my class. She has taught me how to overcome obstacles by her example.  She never stopped learning. As soon as she climbed one mountain she was on to the next one. And all those things made her a tremendous language learner and a very successful person in life.

Noreen M. Drucker
ESL/Bilingual Middle School Representative


Bilingual Elementary 1 - 8

NJTESOL/NJBE Paves the Way for the Next Generation of Language Learners

By Gregory Romero

Gregory Romero

Our Spring Conference on May 28th and 29th at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Brunswick is now a memory. It was an exciting event filled with superb workshops. Every workshop was outstanding with presenters developing topics in the fields of Bilingual Education and ESL. The Hyatt Regency did an outstanding job in accommodating our organization. The food was excellent and the service equally good.

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. On both occasions, the rooms were packed with teachers feverishly taking notes and asking questions. Dr. Diana August spoke about reading instruction while Dr. Deborah Short, spoke about vocabulary development 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. They spoke about State initiatives and how the AMAO is calculated and the students included in the count; districts paying for ACCESS for ELLs from local funds; and district accountability through monitoring of Title III funds. Judie Haynes discussed creating a positive learning environment. BJ Franks and Barbara Tedesco presented information about interventions for developing writing skills using second language acquisition.  Other workshops supplied teachers with ideas to take back to the classroom. Special Interest Group meetings helped colleagues meet to discuss issues of importance and hear the viewpoints of others in their field giving colleagues an opportunity to discuss issues of importance in their own districts, 

NJTESOL/NJBE saw the torch passed to new leadership with Sandee McBride named our new President and Joanne Negrin named as our new Vice President.  As they take the helm of our organization, they will continue to pave the way for the next generation of language learners. Their combined knowledge and experience as second language education leaders will energize our organization and continue the great work of their predecessors.

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 an exceptional [quality] and the various educational companies and publishers were able to speak to those products and materials that can aid 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, Bilingual 4/5

Early Childhood

Another Year Down and...

By Monica Schnee

By the time we sit down to enjoy the articles in Voices, we will have finished another school year. So here is a quick reflection and take-aways from the 2013-2014 school year and our Spring Conference.

NJTESOL/NJBE Conference: This year’s conference was filled with learning opportunities for all grade levels. The most important take-away is that we must own our roles of “language experts” in this new era of CCSS and accountability. Therefore, collaboration is key to the success of our learners. Many of you who attended our SIG have shared that you have adopted the use of the WIDA MODEL or the W-APT for screening and placement and that this move has rendered a more accurate picture of your learners’ needs. Thank you for advocating for better tools and measures to provide more reliable data. 

State Initiatives in Bilingual/ESL Education: This year’s session was packed and, as always, Raquel Sinai, Lori Ramella, and Ken Bond were informative, clear, and helpful about the new changes and the “old procedures”. Their presentation reminded us that being knowledgeable of the Bilingual Code is imperative in order to serve our students effectively. We are still reflecting on the impact of testing those students whose parents decline services. Personally, if the students need ESL support and their parents do not understand the importance of such support, it is crucial for us to be able to work with the general classroom teachers to ensure that those students’ needs will be met. If they are tested and still demonstrate a need for services, we will have the most powerful data to explain to parents that their children need our help, and hopefully succeed. The other “big change” is paying for the ACCESS test booklets with our budget instead of Title III funds. New measures for new times will bring more attention to our students and programs; that is my take away.

SGOs: We all survived them and know what to expect for next year. I hope that most of you have reached your targets and have received a high score. For those who have struggled, we all have background knowledge and prior experiences that will help meet those targets next year.

New Evaluations: Although we know that most of the time, we are highly effective teachers, this year, many will be considered efficient given all the changes and learning curve. We need to keep on working as a team and collaborating, both in our schools and through our organization. Professional development and knowledge of our field is what will make us effective and/or highly effective teachers.

All in all, this has been a challenging year for every educator but I feel we have succeeded. Happy Summer!

Monica Schnee, PreK-Kindergarten SIG, River Edge School District


ESL Elementary

Hot Topics: ELLs with Special Needs, SGOs, and the PARCC

By Maryellen Fitzpatrick

As the new Elementary ESL Special Interest Group Representative, I am honored to serve on the NJTESOL/NJBE Executive Board.  Although new to the board, I have been “in the business” since 1993, when I started out as a bilingual teacher in the Camden City Public School District.  I currently serve as the ELL Specialist for the NJDOE’s Regional Achievement Center (RAC) 7.  For those of you unfamiliar with the relatively new RACs, these are seven field-based school turnaround teams established by the NJDOE and tasked with working directly with schools identified as low performing or having significant achievement gaps.

As the ELL Specialist on RAC 7, which covers southernmost New Jersey and includes Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland, Atlantic, and Cape May Counties, I have seen the need for support not only for ELLs and their ESL and bilingual teachers, but also for administrators and general education teachers who are unfamiliar with the particular needs of ELLs. My position has also given me a front row seat for the many new policies and initiatives that have been rolled out in our schools this year.  These initiatives were among the hot topics of discussion at our SIG meeting at this year’s Spring Conference.  Here are some of the highlights of our discussion.

ELLs with Special Needs

The NJDOE Bureau of Bilingual/ESL Education has an excellent Q&A document specific to Special Education for ELLs: 


Among the key points covered in the document:





Testing accommodations specific to ELLs can be found on pages 37-39 in the 2nd edition of the PARCC Accessibility Features and Accommodations Manual:


Of particular importance in our SIG meeting was the question of ELLs whose parents have declined language services.  Page 42 of the manual clearly states, “English learners whose parents have waived services may not be excluded from state assessments and are eligible to receive accommodations allowed to English learners on PARCC assessments.”

Furthermore, according to the manual (p. 45), “Students classified as English learners who also have a disability are eligible to receive both English learner accommodations and accommodations for students with disabilities on the PARCC assessment as determined by their IEP or 504 team.”

Unfortunately, although we have had confirmation that the PARCC Math assessment will be made available in Spanish, there are currently no plans to do the same for ELA.

Maryellen Fitzpatrick, Elementary ESL SIG , mfitzpatrick@njtesol-njbe.org 
ELL Specialist, NJDOE RAC-7 , maryellen.fitzpatrick@doe.state.nj.us


Work at Mastery



ESL Secondary

Secondary SIGs at the 2014 Spring Conference

By Marcella Garavalis

It was nice to see new and familiar faces at this year’s Spring Conference. Educators had a challenging year and I hope everyone who attended the conference was able to take new or improved ideas and strategies back to their school in order to prepare for next year’s journey. I was overwhelmed with the variety of workshops and wonderful presenters. I had the pleasure of presenting with Caia Schlessinger and Yasmin Hernández-Manno.

A. Hot Topics in Both Bilingual and ESL Secondary Education

*Students who waive out of ESL services need to take the ACCESS for ELLs test every year until they have achieved an exit score or met multiple criteria.

B. Writing Curriculum for ESL Courses Using Common Core and WIDA Standards 


*Please share your experiences with curriculum writing through the NJTESOL/NJBE Hotlist.

If you were unable to attend the conference or would like to review information from some of this year’s workshops click here: Presentations & Handouts for Some Spring Conference 2014 Workshops

Marcella Garavaglia is the NJTESOL/NJBE ESL Secondary Representative. She teaches ESL at Colt Neck High School for the Freehold Regional High School District.
Twitter: @MsGaravaglia


Higher Education

The Practice of Micro-blogging

By Howard Pomann

The Higher Ed Strand at this year’s conference was a large success with 12 presentations on Wednesday, May 28th, focusing on improving students’ academic language skills through project based learning, enhanced tutoring, social media, and on-line resources. 

Workshops also concentrated on important curriculum areas of designing accelerated pathways, and developing/assessing capstone courses.  The challenges facing Higher Education programs were addressed in the Higher Ed SIG meeting, with Dr. William Jiang from Bergen Community College, and Richard Roy from Middlesex Community College.  They focused on the need to get credit for advanced level ESL courses in relation to new pressures in financial aid funding and to increase completion rates.

One workshop which I would like to share with you in more detail is “The Practice of Micro-blogging” by David Hattem from PALS, Rutgers University.  This workshop focused on the theory and practice of micro-blogging to help students learn English. Specifically, using Twitter can help students notice and produce grammatical constructions in an authentic, collaborative forum, while providing various types of corrective feedback. Students find tweeting a meaningful, enjoyable and beneficial task. To effectively use Twitter in grammar or vocabulary courses, the following strategies were suggested:

1. Train students to utilize Twitter and its various features, such as tweeting, re-tweeting (displaying a friend’s tweet TO ONES FOLLOWERS so all of your friends can see it), replying, favoriting, sending direct messages, and searching the public timeline to enter words you want to search on Twitter.

2. Design a structured task around a particular grammar or vocabulary objective and encourage collaboration and noticing. Some suggested strategies are:


3. Provide input and instructor feedback utilizing the following suggested strategies:


These strategies are expanded upon in the following articles:
Hattem, D. (2012) The Practice of Microblogging. The Journal of Second Language Teaching and Research, 1(2), 38-70.
Hattem, D. (2014). Microblogging Activities: Language Play & Tool Transformation. Language Learning & Technology, 18(2), 151-174. *Special Issue Game Informed L2 Teaching and Learning

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

Parent and Community Action

Sharing Ideas about Parent and Community Action

By Karen Nemeth

Ideas for parent and community action were woven into many of the sessions at this year’s NJTESOL/NJBE conference: 


We also want you to know that the weekly chat about ELLs is still going strong on Twitter. This is a great opportunity to reach beyond your school walls and even beyond the boundaries of this continent to share and learn with other educators who work with ELLs.  You can follow #ELLCHAT any time to see updates and new ideas or resources. To participate in the live, topical chat each week, sign on to Twitter or a Twitter user’s program like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck and search for #ELLCHAT.  The topics are announced on the #ELLCHAT Facebook page and the chat runs from 9:00 – 10:00 pm Eastern Time on Mondays.

Conference revisit: Judie Haynes and I had a packed room of attendees who wanted to learn more about becoming an author or consultant, two great ways to make a difference for ELLs.  In the coming months, we will be reviewing this year’s conference and planning for next year. Make sure you let us know what we can do to support your efforts in connecting ELLs with the community.

Karen Nemeth, Coordinator, Parent and Community Action SIG, NJTESOL/NJBE

Special Education

All Abroad: International Experiences for Students and Educators

By Sharon A. Hollander

It is not often that a presenter can say that participants took over her session at a professional meeting, and she was happy about it. But that presenter is me. At the NJTESOL/NJBE spring conference, it was my pleasure to share my experience as a volunteer college teacher in Queretaro, Mexico. Session participants were absolutely wonderful. They shared their many and diverse experiences in international education, which ranged from winning a Fulbright [scholarship] to hopping a plane and looking for a job on arrival.  The group was relatively small, perhaps 18 or 20 attendees, but very articulate and enthusiastic.

This session has had many effects on me. For one, it gave way to reflection about our students and colleagues, those with disabilities, may be interested in this type of experience. How can these individuals broaden their cultural horizons? The answer to this questions can lead to only one organization and one web site: Mobility International USA at www.miusa.org.

I have long been a fan of MIUSA. Founded in 1981, MIUSA is a disability-led, non-profit organization in Eugene, Oregon.  According to their web site, the mission of MIUSA is “To empower people with disabilities to achieve their human rights through international exchange and international development.”  The organization’s initial activities included short-term international exchange programs for individuals with disabilities, including community service projects, as well as the development and publication of relevant resources. In 1995, with sponsorship from the U.S. Department of State, MIUSA launched the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange.

At present, MIUSA is a national and international leader in, and voice for, equal opportunity access to study, teach, intern, and volunteer abroad.  Offerings from MIUSA include advisement, training, leadership development, inclusive international development and relief projects, and a vast array of online resources. I strongly encourage you to visit the MIUSA web site.

Due to the positive response from participants at my conference session, I would like to put together a panel of presenters who have taught overseas in different capacities for the 2015 spring conference.  For myself, I am off to Istanbul, Turkey this summer to teach about intercultural theory and practices at a two week long program for college students. I would be happy to talk about my time in Turkey, but how about you? Many members could benefit from discussion of opportunities in TESOL and bilingual education on the global level. Do you have an experience in international education that you would like to share? Please let me know.

Sharon A. Hollander is the Special Education SIG Representative for NJTESOL/NJBE. She is also a trainer at the Summer Academy on Sustainability from an Intercultural Perspective, July 14-25 at Istanbul Kultur University in Turkey. Sharon can be reached at shollander@njtesol-njbe.org .