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Teacher takes ESOL lessons into the classroom

Posted: April 26, 2013 5:33 p.m.
Updated: April 29, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Lisa Stockdale

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One Kershaw County School District (KCSD) teacher has had the pleasure of teaching 50 students from as far away as Azerbaijan and Cambodia, and is taking what she taught them into her own classroom at Midway Elementary School (MES).

In 2012 and again earlier this month, MES third-grade teacher Lisa Stockdale presented “Diversity in the United States: Race, Ethnicity and Gender” to students ranging in age from 24 to 51 from more than 20 countries. The students are part of the English Access Microscholarship Program, hosted by English Program for Internationals (EPI).

Access participants are teachers who teach English as a second language in their native countries and want to advance their skills. Teachers from the around the world come to Columbia as a part of University of South Carolina’s (USC) Access program, one of two in the United States, EPI Director Alexandra Rowe said. The other program is conducted at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville Spring International Language Center.

A teacher at MES for 27 years, Stockdale received her bachelor’s in elementary education, a master’s in early childhood education, both from the USC. She is National Board Certified and is working on her doctorate in elementary education at USC. Growing up in a bilingual home influenced her decision to choose linguistics as her cognate. The cognate is required for her doctorate and must be completed in an area outside of education department. The linguistics building at USC is also EPI’s home. Stockdale was asked to teach the Access group after she performed well teaching college-age international students at USC working to improve their English.

Now, Stockdale is looking to help non-native English speaking students better adjust to MES and Kershaw County.

Stockdale said she started working with English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students at MES and has passed the Praxis examination to become a certified ESOL teacher. She will complete her last ESOL class this summer.

One of the key points in her Access presentation, Stockdale said, is introducing the fact that America need not be a melting pot, but a salad bowl.

“The melting pot idea implies that individuals' unique characteristics are melded together and combined but it does not suggest that our diversity be recognized, maintained or appreciated. I would prefer to think of the U.S. as a "salad bowl" in which our individual differences are retained and celebrated, not eliminated,” she said.

Stockdale has even hosted four Access teachers at her home and showed them around Kershaw County.

Working with people born and raised outside of the U.S. has become Stockdale’s passion, but how will she use her skills in Kershaw County?


Leveling the language field

South Carolina was ranked first in the nation in terms of having the fastest growing ESOL enrollment, according to a 2010 Migration Policy Institute (MPI) fact sheet on the number and growth of students in U.S. schools in need of English instruction. South Carolina grew 800 percent between the 1997-98 school year, with 3,077 “English language learners” (ELL) students, and the 2007-08 school year, with 28,548 ELL students. Indiana came in second place with 400 percent growth.

There were nearly 50 million students in U.S. public schools during the 2007-2008 school year; 5.3 million of those children were ELLs, according to MPI. North Carolina had 7 percent of its 1.5 million students as ELLs during 2007-08. The national increase in ELL students between the 1997-98 and 2007-08 school years is 53 percent.

The increase in ELL students has also increased in the Kershaw County School District.

In 2007, the district had 118 “limited English proficiency” students; this year there are 327. Those numbers only include students who have an English proficiency rating of “one” through “four.” A student at level “one” is “pre-functional” or speaks no English and a student at level “four” is “advanced.” The total range of levels is “one” to “nine,” KCSD Director of Student Assessment Lavoy Carter said, “nine” being a native English speaker and “eight” being bilingual. A “five” is initially proficient. Once a student reaches “five,” they are screened for two years after that. Anyone who enters the public school system is screened through a language survey, Carter said. The survey asks what is the first language learned in the home. From there students are tested to receive ESOL services and monitoring.

Students up to level “four” get the most direct instruction, whether it is through “push in” or “pull out” services. “Push in” services are when the ESOL teacher goes into a “mainstream” teacher’s classroom to work with students because there is a large enough number of ELL students in one class. “Pull out” happens when ELL students are scattered throughout the school, requiring them to meet on their own, usually during a related arts or non-core curriculum period, Carter said. There are different levels of language acquisition, he said, meaning each student receives individualized “modifications and accommodations.” Some ESOL students can speak basic English, but are not able to communicate or read on a level that will allow them to be successful in school, Carter said.

“Our goal is to make them feel successful in school,” Carter said. “We are very proud of our students’ work; they do very well. They are able to participate in any activity we offer and once they acquire the language ELL students do just as well or better than our native speakers.”

As a nation, however, the U.S. doesn’t encourage bilingualism, Stockdale said. No Child Left Behind rescinded some of the language emphasis that had previously been in schools, she said. There are currently four ESOL teachers employed by the district and only one is bilingual. Those four teachers serve eight schools. ESOL teachers aren’t required to speak a second language, Carter said. That fact is a concern for Stockdale, who believes that teachers are unprepared to meet the needs of ELL students. Less than 20 percent of “pre-service” teaching programs require one course in bilingual education and those already in the profession receive less than eight hours of professional development related to ELL services, Stockdale said. 

Carter said KCSD has ELL students in special and gifted programs, as well as special needs classes. Many people think the “S” in ESOL means Spanish, Carter said, which is incorrect. The district has ESOL students whose native language is anything from Arabic to German to the Cantonese or Mandarin dialects of China, he said. Midway, Pine Tree Hill and Jackson elementary schools have the largest population of ELL students, Carter said.

KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan said the district is only able to work with an ESOL student for one year before they are required to take state standardized tests. Similar to Carter, Morgan said there is a large gap between being able to speak enough English to function and understanding English well enough to perform well in school. Morgan is sensitive to ESOL students because of his former profession as a French teacher. Morgan said he took French all four years of high school and throughout college, but it took him several months as an exchange student in France to get the idioms, speed, and vocabulary used in France. Overall, however, Morgan said he is pleased with how the district has handled the growing number of ESOL students.

Mirrors and windows

In regard to Stockdale, Morgan said she has an excellent feel for working with rural children and is an “outstanding” classroom teacher.

“She understands and works well with the individual differences among students and she works well with parents. Any person teaching while working on their dissertation process is someone we should be in awe of, because it is a difficult process on its own,” Morgan said.

He said the work that Stockdale is doing will not only impact her classroom but her colleagues’ since MES has a smaller student population and Stockdale is already respected by her fellow faculty members.

For right now, Stockdale said she is looking for more exposure to what she likes to call “emergent bilinguals.” Stockdale is interested in figuring out how ELL students can maintain their bilingualism while learning English at school. Research says that students who can read and write in their native language learn a second language more easily, so it is important to “support” the student’s first language, she said 

 “I want my classroom to have mirrors and windows, in which a child can see themselves in the curriculum, as well as see others in the rural area that we are in,” Stockdale said. “I want them to be culturally aware of languages and cultures. Some students don’t have access to areas outside of Kershaw County and I want them to have a clearer picture of the real world. The demographics are changing and we need culturally responsive teachers because we are growing faster than anywhere else in the U.S.

“This is my passion. I want to be able to make my children more culturally aware of ‘other’ in the hope of finding similarities so we can bridge the gap between our differences.”


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