From The Editor

Like a Peacock

By Roselyn Rauch


ike a peacock with his magnificent plumage, proud and preening to complimentary coos from the peahen, are we.

The 2015 winter edition brought many kudos to those of us on the production side of your Voices.  But the compliments needed to be redirected to our writers, your Executive Board members and Special Interest Group Reps, who provided those written words that struck those reactive chords. More often than not, people will grab a pen, or keyboard and mouse, to let off steam about something that rubbed them wrong; much less often about something that pleased them. So we were extremely pleased to get so much praise on the issue.

Hopeful am I that most of you saw the emails sent through the Hotlist about the changes that have been made to the way Voices is now formatted thus making it easier for you to download and print should you desire. Yes, we had growing pains as we transitioned from hard copy to on-line. Yes, we lost some of our readership along the way. (What a shame for what they have missed.) But, now that we – read Marilyn Pongracz and Dawn Arthur, our webmaster and layout person, respectively - have ironed out most of the bugs and have chosen newer, more user-friendly software, we hope to gain back our readership. And, after such glowing compliments, we certainly want all of our members to be part of our party. Please spread the word to your colleagues.

Raquel Sinai is a name familiar to all of us. She was THE go-to person at the DOE whenever a puzzling situation arose; she was the problem-solver. After many years, she has earned her retirement and the praise is coming in. Read the farewell by Lori Ramella giving Raquel her due and get to know Raquel through Barbara Tedesco's interview. Learn that NJTESOL/NJBE will be bestowing a scholarship in Raquel's name. Thank you from all of us, Raquel.

This is our pre-spring conference edition and so many of our articles provide the highlights for each SIG, but, just as I always encourage readers to read what is going on in the other SIGs, so do I suggest that you consider attending a workshop either up or down from your level. It will give you a greater scope of what you should anticipate from the students coming to you and what the next higher level expects from you.

Be sure to read Gwen Franks' piece on how to get the most from the conference. Be prepared.

BJ Franks celebrates our NJTESOL/NJBE history; to know our history is to be informed so that the same mistakes are not repeated. Where have we heard this before?

It's spring and PARCC and ACCESS are dominant themes in several articles.

It's also the end of some SIG representative's terms: see Noreen Drucker's article. However, there are several openings on the Executive Board: apply, it is an amazing experience.

Enough said; just read on and enjoy.

Happy Spring!


Roselyn Rauch, Ed.D., is the editor of Voices and a retired ESL/ESL Resource teacher from the Paterson Public School System. She is a consultant with ESL Unlimited and may be reached at rrauch@njtesol.org .

Sandee McBride

President's Message

By Sandee McBride

Meet Our Featured Speakers for Spring Conference

John Segota, Associate Executive Director for Public Policy and Professional Relations at TESOL International Association, has been with TESOL International in Alexandria, Virginia since 1996. He deals with government relations, media communications, professional outreach, strategic planning, and standards development.  John has a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Political Science with a concentration in International Studies from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts; a graduate certificate in Project Management from the Keller Graduate School of Management; and, more recently, is pursuing a master's degree in Public Leadership from The George Washington University. He has earned the Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation from The American Society of Association Executives. He serves on the Board of Directors for the National Coalition for Literacy.

Mr. Segota's presentations include “Dynamic Grassroots Advocacy,"  “U.S. Federal Updates at TESOL Conventions,” "Immigration and ESL: A Policy Update,” "Education Policy Outlook,” and others. In addition, he has presented workshops on the Common Core with one of this year's keynote speakers, Diane Staehr Fenner. We look forward to hearing his input on advocacy for, and policy affecting, our language learners.

Erin Haynes, Ph.D., is a researcher at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). Her primary area of expertise is K-12 English language learner (ELL) education, with a focus on professional development and curriculum. She develops and reviews text-based curricula for ELLs that meet the Common Core State Standards. She co-wrote a professional development program and materials for mainstream teachers of K-8 English language learners, published by the Center for Applied Linguistics. She has presented for NJTESOL/NJBE at our Fall Institute at Stockton University in Galloway, NJ.

This May, she will speak on the topic "Standards-Based Academic Writing for Middle and High School English Language Learners." The workshop will deal with the ways that the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts (CCSS for ELA) provide significant opportunities and challenges for engaging English language learners (ELLs) with intellectually rich tasks, texts, and content in ELA and across the disciplines. She will explore research-based pedagogical approaches and concrete ideas for teachers to successfully support their middle and high school ELL students to navigate these linguistic challenges, with a focus on academic writing. The presentation includes interactive examples of the pedagogical practices and concludes with time for participants to ask questions and to engage in a discussion about implications and implementation.

Sandee McBride, President NJTESOL/NJBE

Vice President's Message

The Importance of Financial Literacy in Advocacy

By JoAnne Negrin

As teachers of ELs (English learners,) we are advocates for our students every day. We make sure that their material needs are met to the best of our ability, finding a winter coat where one is needed and doing research on social services that might make the transition a little easier for our students and their families. We make sure that their adjustment to the school environment goes well, that they are well received by their classmates and that their other teachers understand their needs. We always wish that there were more to go around: more time, more energy, more emotional reserves, and, especially, more money. We live under constant conditions of never enough. And the numbers of students and the magnitude of the needs that we bear witness to never decrease.

For these reasons, another important part of advocacy is to understand the flow of money. Whenever I make a purchase or fund an initiative, I try to let the teacher(s) involved know how and why we were able to do it, or why not if the desired outcome is not possible. First, every teacher should become familiar with the rhythms of the district financial calendar. Most districts start their fiscal year on July 1. Your school and/or department budgets are the first place to look when you need something, particularly something required, something small, or something that is a little odd and may not be fundable by federal money.  Districts have more discretion when making purchases with their own funds. Of course, there aren’t a whole lot of district funds to go around these days. A budget-savvy teacher will put together a (reasonable) wish list of items, complete with quotes, for their principal or supervisor before they leave for the summer. That way the request goes in when the new money becomes available, and, with any luck, the items are waiting for you when school begins. Another thing to keep in mind is that about halfway through the year, district supply budgets are frozen as the new budget wrangling season commences. I hate having to tell people they can’t have things they want because they came to me a few weeks too late.

There are also two important federal sources that you should be aware of.  Both Title I and Title III funds are the direct result of No Child Left Behind (2001). Both are meant to provide supplemental opportunities that level the playing field for disadvantaged students. The one that is most familiar to teachers of ELs is Title III. Title III funds are dedicated to providing supplemental goods and services that promote the academic achievement of ELs. The most important thing to keep in mind is that these funds are dedicated to your kids. They can be used for professional development (both for you and for your non-EL specialist colleagues, such as Sheltered Instruction training), for enrichment programs, for parent involvement, and for supplemental materials. Not every district accepts Title III funds, and some do so within a consortium of smaller districts. It would be advantageous to know whether yours accepts the funds,who administers them, and then get friendly with that person. Chances are, the funds are administered by someone who would really appreciate your input on how that money could best be spent.

Title I is a much larger program that is geared toward all students who are disadvantaged. Although some people think that socioeconomic status is the determining factor for Title I eligibility, that is not necessarily the case. Here’s a somewhat exaggerated example: If Warren Buffett’s hypothetical son or daughter struggled to meet proficiency benchmarks, he or she could be a Title I student regardless of family income.  All ELs are by definition Title I students.

Although some Title I funding is used centrally, very often schools will determine how to use their allotment to meet their needs. One of the required components of a school’s Title I program is parent outreach, which can present a great opportunity to get your parents involved and teach them some much-needed skills. As an example, you can do a “tech night,” during which you can help parents to obtain a free e-mail address, obtain access to your parent portal, and show them how to navigate your website. Ours, for example, has a globe at the top that will allow them to change the language. Almost nobody finds this feature without assistance. You are permitted to provide food at these parent events, which helps to increase turnout. Again, not every school receives Title I funding, and there are several tiers of Title I funding that come with different permissions and restrictions. Again, find out who administers the funds in your school and get friendly with them! They are likely to be appreciative of your ideas.

Federal funding allows us to provide supplemental opportunities for our students. Even if the playing field will never be completely leveled for our most challenged students, it gives them a fighting chance. Unfortunately, that funding is currently under siege. Some of the proposals that are being floated in Washington right now include subsuming Title III funding under Title I, which would effectively allow that funding that is currently dedicated to ELs to be used for many other purposes. Another proposal would eliminate the “maintenance of effort” requirements for states. Currently, states and districts are required to provide a certain level of funding in order to receive federal aid. I know that if you are a teacher struggling with inadequate resources, that statement may leave you a bit bewildered. Imagine if that provision were gone! To top it all off, NCLB funding is not keeping up with the growth of our student populations who stand to benefit from it.

Sometimes, advocating for our students involves more than procuring a coat, as important as that is. Learn where the money comes from and who distributes it. Cultivate a relationship with that person so that your ideas will be heard and your needs responded to. A busy administrator will be grateful – you are making his or her life easier. Most importantly, remember that there is a direct link between the politics of Washington and your students’ opportunities. Write to your state and national congress people about the issues you care about. And keep an eye out for advocacy alerts on the Hotlist – we try to make that easy for you.

JoAnne Negrin, Ed. D

JoAnne Negrin is Supervisor of ESL, Bilingual Education, World Languages, and Performing Arts and NCLB/Title I Coordinator for the Vineland Public Schools. She is also Vice-President and Conference Chair of NJTESOL/NJBE.


A Farewell to Raquel Sinai From a Colleague

By Lori Ramella

Ihave had to prepare for many presentations and meetings over the years, but creating this one was the most difficult.  How does one say goodbye to a colleague, mentor, and friend of 11 years in a matter of 5 minutes?

When I first began working with Raquel, she promised me that everyone would come to know me in the school districts.  Although this was true, it is really thousands upon thousands of school district teachers and administrators who know Raquel.  She is respected and admired by bilingual and ESL educators throughout the state as well here at the DOE which is evidenced by all of you who have come here to wish her well.

Bilingual, ESL, LEP, ELL, EL, regardless of the name of the student population, Raquel always ensured that the rights of these students were protected and were provided with the most equitable education as possible.  Whether Raquel was beginning an innovative program such as a newcomer center grant, sheltered instruction training, providing input on the assessment accommodations for LEP students, or embarking on a new assessment - the ACCESS for ELLs, she always solicited school district feedback in order to determine the pros and cons and the impact on the LEP student population. School districts have always confided in Raquel and have turned to her for advice.  As modest as she is, she would remind educators that they are the ones teaching and conducting the most valuable work.

Something else I would like to recognize is Raquel's memory which made her become a great storyteller. Her tales were amusing and insightful - from the one where there was consideration of the DOE eliminating the SRA to identifying appropriate language proficiency tests to hosting a workshop at the Gloucester county office that had burned down which she was not aware of until she arrived there.  

Throughout Raquel's career, she was always able to maintain her composure and sense of humor, especially being placed in the "hot seat." Not only does Raquel possess these qualities, but there were never any questions that she could not answer and her motto was "put one foot in front the other."

I am confident that each of you has a great story and fond memories of Raquel and I urge you to capture these in the journal we have provided today.

On behalf of many generous contributors, a scholarship in Raquel Sinai's name will be established that will recognize a newcomer high school student.  This scholarship will be a part of the state-wide organization, NJTESOL/NJBE. 

Raquel, you will be sorely missed and the DOE, school district staff, and bilingual students of NJ will remember the impact you have made for an eternity!

Your colleague,
Lori (Ramella) Bilingual/ ELL Specialist
NJ DOE Office of Supplemental Educational Programs


An Interview with Raquel Sinai Upon Her Retirement

By Barbara Tedesco

W  hat made you apply for the position at the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) 30 years ago?


I had just returned to the U.S. from spending three years overseas.  I wanted to work in the field of bilingual and ESL education and the position that was open at the DOE seemed interesting and challenging.  The DOE had received a Title VII grant (federal funding for bilingual education) to provide training to DOE staff in bilingual education and the needs of language minority students.  The position had been vacant for a year when I applied for it.

Where were you before the NJDOE?

I had been in Italy on a Fulbright TOEFL grant.  I worked with Italian middle school teachers of English developing EFL units of study and providing workshops on various aspects of teaching English as a Foreign Language.  At that time, the predominant methodology in EFL was the “communicative approach.”

I had begun my career as an ESL teacher in Salem County, NJ, where I also administered a county-wide bilingual/ESL program. After that, I worked at Temple University which had received a Title VII grant to provide bilingual and ESL workshops to teachers and administrators in a multi-state region.  It was after that position that I went to teach overseas, first to China as part of a Temple University program teaching English to English professors at the Huazhong Institute of Technology in Wuhan, and then to Japan  where I taught EFL in Japan for various companies including Kobe Steel and Mitsubishi.  After a year in Japan, I went to Italy for two years.

In a nutshell, what exactly was your role at the NJDOE ?

My first position at the NJDOE was to train a cohort of NJDOE staff on bilingual education: what it consisted of, its theoretical basis, and its practical applications in school settings.  Based on this training, I was to develop a turn-key manual for other state departments of education throughout the U.S in order that the training that had been done at the NJDOE could be replicated in other states.  The turnkey training manual that culminated the project was sent to all DOE’s throughout the country and the many letters that we received (no e-mail in those days!) indicated that not only was it used in other state departments of education but also in universities. 

How did you manage the office when it was just you as compared to when there were nine people?

It was a difficult transition.  During the early 1990’s the Bureau of Bilingual Education had been fully staffed.  During that period, I had been working in another office, and returned to the Bureau during a period of reorganization and staff reassignments.  Eventually, as the only staff person left in bilingual/ESL education, I became the Bureau and had to quickly learn to prioritize the functions that were essential and de-emphasize or eliminate those that were not.

What were some of the best moments at the NJ DOE?

The best moments at the NJDOE for me were always those in which I was able to contribute to and partake in the successes of educators in the field with their ELL students, and in the camaraderie and sense of common purpose that was the result of the many collaborative initiatives.Some of these initiatives included the development of the SRA in the native language, which originally included about 13 languages and which used original source material in the native languages for the language arts assessments, setting the English fluency standard for high school graduation, and developing an aligned standards, assessment and accountability system when the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was passed.

The worst or hardest….?

The hardest was being a single staff person in bilingual/ESL education when the No Child Left Behind Act was passed with its mandate for a major transformation in the role of SEAs in language assistance programs.  In a fairly short time, SEAs had to develop annual measurable achievement objectives, and adopt or develop ESL standards and an assessment that met the requirements of NCLB, as well as develop the infrastructure for their implementation, such as test administration training,  field testing, data collection and analysis, and awareness and information workshops.  Eventually, the NCLB funding enabled the DOE to hire two additional staff members, but during the initial stages of NCLB, I was the only bilingual/ESL staff person at the NJDOE.

What are your plans in retirement?

I have begun taking Italian classes again.  When I lived in Italy I became quite fluent, but as happens with languages, my skills have eroded over the years from lack of use.  I hope to travel to Italy and other countries, partake of the many cultural venues in the Philadelphia region and attend lectures at the library.  I would like to visit the national parks as well as discover local and state parks to hike and bike.  I have lots of books I want to read and am currently reading The Orphan Train.   Mostly, I am enjoying not living on a schedule and having more time to spend with friends and family and to pursue interests.  At some point, I plan to tutor or teach ESL locally and work with the immigrant community.

So how did you feel when you were told that there would be a scholarship for newcomers in your name?

Words cannot express how honored I feel by this gesture.  I never expected this and am very moved by this demonstration of appreciation and faith.  It is especially meaningful to me because I have always maintained that secondary ELL newcomer students need the most focus and attention from ELL educators because they have the greatest needs due to their age, limited time to learn the language and catch up academically, and due to the greater academic and linguistic demands at the secondary school level.   For this reason, I feel very proud of and humbled by this very thoughtful award.

Are there any words of wisdom you can offer the members?

To answer this question I would like to quote 19th century American essayist, philosopher and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who in his essay, “Self-Reliance” wrote the following:

“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages... In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.”

The current educational context is dominated by scientific research, governmental regulations and mandates, and standardized assessments. There is no question that these structures are valuable in ensuring that students’ rights are protected, educational practices are based on sound principles of teaching and learning, and that tests accurately measure students’ skills and knowledge, provide valuable information and ensure accountability.   However, they should not replace the professional judgment that educators have developed from their education, training and experience, as well as from the personal knowledge that they have of their students and the bonds that they form with them.

I hope everyone enjoyed this brief interview.

On behalf of ELLs and ELL educators, I wish Raquel the best of health to accomplish her retirement goals.. Grazie mille per la vostra dedizione e il duro lavoro. (Thank you for your dedication and hard work).  Fino a che non veniamo a contatto di ancora. (Until we meet again.)

Barbara Tedesco is a Past President of NJTESOL/NJBE and is the current Historian.

Spring Conference 2015

For the Most Successful Conference Experience...

By Gwen Franks

Haven't received your confirmation for your conference registration yet?
Then you need to act now!

  • Email confirmations are sent out to all those who are registered and supply a valid email address.  If you paid and registered by check or PayPal/credit card account and have not received your confirmation please contact me right away.
  • If you turned in your registration to your school since they are paying with a purchase order (PO,) please check with your schools business office FIRST to see if it has been processed and mailed. Please do not assume that since you turned it in to your school that it has been sent out.  Do not send registration forms without the purchase order or vice versa.
  • Do not wait until the week before the conference to follow up as it will be too late to register. Last year we had to regretfully turn people away since we had reached our maximum capacity.  If your school said that the PO and registration has been sent out, then contact me so we can double check on your registration.  Please check with your school first.

If you haven't registered yet there is still time (until capacity is reached).  You can choose from one of the following three ways:

1. Register online only if paying with PayPal or credit card;
2. Print out the form and mail in with a check (must be RECEIVED BY May 8th, this date is FIRM);
3. Print out the form and send in with an approved and signed purchase order (the purchase order and registration form must be sent together and RECEIVED BY May 8, this date is FIRM). Requisitions or just a PO number are not accepted.  Do not send a registration form without the actual PO, it will not be processed.  Please follow up with your district to make sure the PO and registration are processed and mailed on time. Do not assume that is all taken care of as we do not take walk-ins at the conference.

We DO NOT accept emailed or faxed registrations, so act quickly.   

Must be mailed to:
230 Ashland Ave
Cherry Hill, NJ 08003

Registration forms can be found on our web site: www.NJTESOL-NJBE.org and by clicking on the 2015 Spring Conference Registration & Information link. 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. Once you receive your confirmation: Please read the confirmation in full to make sure that your registration is correct. Check the date(s) you are registered for carefully! If there is a problem, please email Gwen Franks at gfranks@njtesol-njbe.org so that we can straighten it out.

Other Important Conference Information:

  • Picture ID is 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 absolutely required to wear your badge which identifies you as a conference attendee. Badges will be checked throughout the day.
  • Parking Hotel parking for 400 cars will be available for $7.00 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.
  • President's Awards Reception. Join your colleagues and NJTESOL/NJBE friends at the President's Awards Reception after the conference on Wednesday, May 27, at 6:00 pm. Light refreshments will be served. The cost is $20.  If you haven't registered as of yet you can still do so by visiting http://njtesol-njbe.org/spring-conference/AwardsReception.htm 
  • 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 check-in and 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 earn one hour of professional development. This card can be found inside your conference booklets. 
  • Check the conference schedule on our website and plan your day. Once you are registered for the conference, you do not pre-register for the individual workshops.  
  • For your convenience, our lunch buffet will be continuously served between 11:00 and 2:00.
  • 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 .


Still Safe

By Tina Kern

They burst into the room, chattering in Spanish, with earbuds and phones, backpacks and Chromebooks.  Some linger just outside the door, timing their entrance with precision, staring at me, one foot in, one out, as the bell rings.  Another day at school.

They look American with their jeans masking the scars and emotional distress that plague them.  The atmosphere in the class is charged as they try to settle down.  It’s the last period – the last 80 minutes of school – and the day is so long for them. Their heads burst with American words, sometimes indistinguishable from nonsense, as they struggle to make sense of their new language.  By 2:00 they are overstimulated, and tired from the effort of trying to “do school”.  The effort of concentrating is tiring; they are hungry and exhausted. 

I count backwards as I raise my hand in the air: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. I have their attention for the moment. The lesson begins. Fifty eyes stare at me, beckoning, as I stare back with expectations that we can have a valuable lesson. I know I have less than 20 minutes of the block to teach them the day’s information.  After that, their attentiveness will slowly dissolve. 

This is the most challenging teaching I have ever experienced. I have to adapt every lesson because nothing seems apropos. The attention span diminishes as the clock ticks so I have to frontload every lesson. All activities have to be adapted to the lesson and differentiated so that the students can experience success and learn a new concept every day.  The students don’t have a solid background in their own language, often testing on a third grade – or lower- level in Spanish. And Spanish is not some of the students’ first language. Many of the students speak an indigenous language and, as a result, are learning English as their third language. 

The majority of the students in my classrooms come from Honduras, or from the countryside of Guatemala. These students are as different from each other as they are from me. We come together every day to learn English.  Some stare, daring me to teach them; some take out their notebook, eager to assimilate the information. They all want my attention, but are often unwilling to reciprocate. I am exhausted, too, as I transfer every ounce of energy from myself to my often reticent audience.

We have been together four months now. The rules are established; the routine is set – and yet each day I carry my pad, enforcing the “3 check” tenet in order to create a routine that compels them to attend to the lesson. The enthusiasm is fleeting – and yet I crave that feeling that teachers get when they finally draw their students into the incredible place where the learning is palpable.

Now some of the students have learned that school can be the beginning of a new and better future. They get ready for the class, notebooks and pencils in hand, Chromebooks charged. Others are experiencing much difficulty adjusting to a peaceful life. Their faces are hard and unforgiving. They espouse the same words and demand respect for themselves, not for others. They forget their Chromebook, or bring them uncharged, or broken. They disregard the rules; they ignore the consequences. The detentions mount; they continue to fight the system. They remain symbols of what was, not what can be. They fight every word, every rule, on guard constantly, trying to interpret every nuance, every gesture. It is a difficult dance. I try to engage them in learning with lessons that involve every sense, every interest. Sometimes I see a flicker, and the flame almost ignites. The next day it starts all over again.

Some students are waiting for court dates so that they maintain their status in the United States.  This only requires proof of attending school, not academic standing. As a result, some students overtly demonstrate this disregard of learning in the classroom. Others, due to part-time jobs, are tired in class and their eyes start to flutter as they struggle to stay awake. Still others have difficulty learning any content material, even when presented in Spanish. Those who speak Spanish as a second language may not have literacy skills in their first language and their Spanish literacy skills are weak.  Others crave the education we offer and are disheartened by some of their peers and their inattention. There is a plethora of situations.

They are survivors. Some learned to lie, or do whatever it took to survive. Now they were in a classroom and survival skills often meant they weren’t “doing” school, but fighting it. Who would survive the classroom? They had become programmed to fight, to resist, to not allow anyone too close, to smile as if they were acquiescing.  I was trying to break down the barriers.

With some, I was succeeding. With some, I felt it was almost too late. They were still very defiant. They changed the scenery but not the attitude. They continued their behavior but in the classroom.  Here that conduct was counterproductive. It didn’t foster learning; it fostered a disconnect from the educational environment. Why couldn’t they realize that? What could I do to help them understand? Even their peers sometimes shook their heads, and muttered dishearteningly. They were the unforgiving, the ones that would suffer for an indefinite amount of time – the ones their parents and the school couldn’t reach right now. When would they overcome their experiences and let us help them? Every day their families and the school staff tried. They received assistance both educationally and emotionally. Hopefully they would overcome their past in time to complete their education successfully. Hopefully they would overcome their past and become part of our community.

Recently there was a heart-breaking scenario: Many of my students work “part-time” after school to help their new families with expenses.One young student (let’s call her Mari) was a very enthusiastic and dedicated student. Unfortunately, she physically could not continue going to school full time and then work every day after school. Mari was absent many times because of sickness and exhaustion. Though I explained how vital it was to finish school here, her guardian signed her out of school and told us she would not return.  She needed to work. 

Unfortunately, this is just one of the scenarios.  The lure of working for some families and/or students is very compelling.  Between the financial distress of the newly expanded families and the sudden roll of money in the hands of students from cash derived from working many hours after school, the delayed gratification of school graduation and its value remains elusive.

But there is progress in even the short time I have been at the high school. Now some of my students talk to me. Though they speak mostly in Spanish, the silent period for some is dissolving slowly in meted phrases and awkward sentences in English.  Many are trying to speak though, in English.  And some are speaking about their past – and the nightmares they endured pour out in stifled sentences:  “I was happy,” he says.  “I lived with my grandmother and we were a family. Then the violence- It’s really violent there.”  He pauses and I wait.  We both reflect, and I swallow my incredible sadness so I can become his teacher once again.

Just yesterday, one of my students came into class, quiet, with a terribly forlorn demeanor.  I later found out one of his friends had been killed in Honduras. It was on social media and he was devastated.  He received a shirt with his friend’s likeness sent to him from the family and became very depressed. It was impossible for him to concentrate on being in school, and completing his academic work, for he was catapulted back into his past. This was the second student I teach that experienced this type of loss – and there are many types of losses that they suffer.

And there is more progress.  In the beginning of my teaching at the high school, when a student was called from my room to the office for a detention, he would act defiantly as he left the classroom.  Recently, when a student was called downstairs, he turned to me with horror. And asked, “What did I do?  Do you know why they want to talk to me?”  Rather than the “I don’t care” attitude, he exhibited a concern that indicated we had turned a corner.  With his peers watching, he let us know he did care.  One by one, some of my students were becoming a different type of survivor.The raw fear was being replaced by a softer, gentler individual.I could feel the difference.

Some students didn’t spring from the class at the at the end of class as if there was a fire pursuing them.  Some didn’t leave immediately for lunch, but lingered to finish their work or ask for help.  Some were smiling again – a real smile this time.  Some were still staring at me with hostility.  Some looked at me like I was the enemy – yet some were beginning to become accustomed to being high school students in the United States. Some laughed with me, and some cried with me. I gave some second hand clothes to one for her baby, and when she showed me the picture of her son in one of the outfits, I started to tear – because she shared a piece of her home life with me.

I persisted; I showed up every day. They persisted; they fought me and the education we offered. Then slowly there was a change.  The transformation was beginning.

Trust was the issue. How could they ever trust again?  Many of them had been abandoned.  Their reunited parents were at a loss because their teenage children were strangers. These children weren’t items they could return; somehow they had to become a family. Somehow the survivors had to survive here. We had to develop trust – the epicenter of every type of relationship.

One day it happened. Three students came to my classroom after school to ask me a question. “Miss,” they started to say. “Miss, can you help us? We don’t understand this letter we all received from school.”  The letter was about a school function for seniors, not them. As I explained that, I also said, “Thank you for coming.” “Miss,” they replied.  “We came because we trust you.”

And that was the beginning.

I hope to see all of you at the upcoming NJTESOL/NJBE Spring Conference. Many of you are experiencing similar scenarios and I can’t wait to speak with you. I want to share successes, and ideas. I also want to peruse the material from our exhibitors, always searching for new and wonderful material for our classrooms.  See you this May 27th and May 28th in New Brunswick.  I can’t wait!

Tina Kern, Liaison, NJTESOL/NJBE

The Bergen-Passaic Workshop

By Linda Hornyak

From Assessment to Achievement

The Bergen-Passaic NJTESOL/NJBE Chapter hosted yet another inspiring annual spring conference on Saturday, March 14, 2015 at William Paterson University, Wayne, New Jersey.  The event was a very timely, informative and well-attended function aimed at guiding educators as they traverse the pathway From Assessment to Achievement:  PARCC, ACCESS and Classroom-Based Assessment for Student Learning.  It is no surprise that Mr. Kenneth Bond, Bilingual/ESL Educational Specialist with the NJDOE and the keynote speaker, met the objective and delivered an extraordinary and “highly effective” overview of assessment policies in New Jersey.  Likewise, assessment and feedback of the three breakout sessions presented by JoAnne Negrin, Monica Schnee and Maggie Churchill = Trifecta!

Keynote Address:  ELL Assessment:  Past, Present and Future

Presented by Mr. Kenneth Bond. 

Mr. Bond is a Bilingual/ESL Educational Specialist with the NJDOE.  He has been an adjunct professor at Rowan University and Eastern University.  Additionally, his teaching experiences include working as an ESL teacher/coordinator at the Somerdale School District, teaching EFL in a Chinese public school, and instructing adult refugees. 

As keynote speaker, Mr. Bond provided a remarkably informative overview of ELL assessment policies and the implications for districts in New Jersey.  He also discussed the historical context of standardized ELL testing, current assessment policies and practices, and future developments that will impact New Jersey educators. 


Breakout 1:  Formative Assessment for ELLs in the Age of the Common Core


Presented by Dr. JoAnne Negrin.

Dr. Negrin is the Vice President of NJTESOL/NJBE as well as the NCLB Coordinator and Supervisor of ESL, Bilingual Education, World Languages, and Performing Arts for the Vineland Public Schools in New Jersey.  She is currently orchestrating the alignment of the aformentioned subject areas with the CCSS, and is working with other areas to ensure that the needs of ELLs are addressed across the curriculum.  Furthermore, she has been recognized for her work promoting the Seal of Biliteracy in her district. 

By introducing participants to a reading activity that demonstrated the struggles that ELLs face on a daily basis, Dr. Negrin highlighted the importance of the simultaneous development of language and content skills, a hallmark of the CCSS.  She then lead participants through an examination of the manner in which integrated formative assessment supports high quality learning, and an exploration of methods to develop and use such assessments to refine and drive instruction.

Breakout 2:  WIDA Performance Definitions and Assessment for Younger ELLs - The Connection


Presented by Monica Schnee. 

Monica is an educator/ ESL coordinator in the River Edge Public School District.  She also teaches Assessment in the Second Language Classroom as an adjunct professor in the graduate program of the School of Education at Fairleigh Dickinson University.  She is WIDA-certified, serves as NJTESOL/NJBE SIG Pre-K-K Representative, and has been a member of the Bilingual Advisory Committee for the NJDOE.  Her program won the New Jersey Model ESL Program Award (2012-2014).  Furthermore, Monica has written the ESL Curriculum Exemplar Kindergarten Unit as well as the Model Curriculum English Language Arts Kindergarten Unit Exemplar for ELLs for the NJDOE Bilingual Office.

Monica motivated participants by providing access to appropriate formative assessment strategies for younger ELLs.  She shared information and her expertise about various assessment tools such as the W-APT, ACCESS MODEL and the ACCESS for ELLs, including how each connects with the WIDA Performance Definitions and the WIDA Standards.  She also introduced and explored the WIDA Early ELD Standards to explain how they articulate with the WIDA ELD Standards K-12. 

Breakout 3:  Middle School Assessment of ELLs:  From Entry to Exit


Presented by Maggie Churchill.

Maggie is an ESL teacher at the middle school level in Closter, New Jersey and an adjunct instructor/reading specialist for Montclair State University.  She has contributed to the writing of the NJDOE Model Curriculum and the Exemplar Units for ELLs.  In addition, Maggie is a member of the New Jersey State Bilingual Advisory Committee.  Her work was presented at the Fall 2013 WIDA Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

In an energetic, enthusiastic fashion Maggie shared her expertise and methods of assessing the phonemic awareness, word recognition skills, independent reading levels, oral language fluency and writing skills of ELLs.  Participants had the opportunity to examine a variety of engaging materials that both accurately and appropriately address the needs of upper-level ELLs.

Linda Hornyak, Public Relations, NJTESOL/NJBE Bergen-Passaic Chapter

Technology 1

Favorite Websites For Reading

By Marilyn Pongracz

Recently, a colleague asked about reading websites.  I checked my list on the Bergen Community College website, www.bergen.edu/elrclinks, and was pleased to find that these sites, which have been around for a while, have been updated with additional practice and features.

One of my favorites is The Study Zone from the University of Victoria English Language Centre, http://web2.uvcs.uvic.ca/elc/studyzone/index.htm.  This site offers practice for grammar and reading.  A few of the stories, such as the urban legends in the intermediate level, are only suitable for high school or adult learners, but all hold the reader’s attention.  Each level has at least a few reading selections with reading comprehension questions, the lower intermediate having the most: five traditional stories from Japan, China, Canada, and six of the wonderful Nasreddin Hodja tales from Turkey.  The first two levels also have a “recreating the story” exercise to put the sentences in order, and a gap-filling exercise.

The readings on the English Corner site: 

http://www.englishcorner.vacau.com/reading/reading.html, vary to include fiction, non-fiction, and 21 famous poems.  Some of the readings and all of the poems have glosses for difficult words.  These definitions are simple enough for intermediate students.  One of the selections has a true-false quiz and fifteen have multiple choice practices.  There are also story-building, text reconstruction, and cloze exercises.  The main site also has a lot of grammar and vocabulary practice. See: http://www.englishcorner.vacau.com/

Learning Resources from Literacyworks,
http://www.literacynet.org/cnnsf/education.html, features over a hundred news stories from CBS and CNN intended for adults with low reading comprehension and low-intermediate adult English learners, but is suitable for younger students as well.  Topic categories range from culture and society to the environment, science and technology, and more.  Every article has a simplified and a full version.  The latter also has Real Player audio.  Although the word look-up doesn’t work, there are five multiple choice exercises for each story for practice with vocabulary, comprehension, and sequencing.

Finally, my go-to site for high beginning English learners is the California Distance Learning Project, CDLP at http://www.cdlponline.org/.  Each of the eleven topics such as Family, Health, Money, and Nature has from twenty to almost eighty reading selections.  All have audio for both the simplified and full versions of the stories.  Activities include spelling with audio, a memory-type matching vocabulary game, a multiple choice comprehension exercise, and a writing prompt.

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

Technology 2

Technology at the Spring Conference

By Marilyn Pongracz

Technology Highlights at the Spring Conference

  • Cloud-Based Tools: Collaboration in Reading and Writing Courses - Mahua De
  • Digital Tools that Make Assessment a Snap - Waleska Batista
  • Google Classroom: Technology Integration and ESL Instruction - Patricia George & Anne Szczurek
  • Technology to Support Home Languages in Early Childhood - Karen Nemeth
  • Using Video and Online Games for Teaching/Learning: Ayhan Dogan (Graduate Forum)
  • What in the World is a Glog? Gwen McIntyre and Shirley Shields (Poster Session)