Friday, February 28, 2014

Welcoming New WIDA Bloggers, Part 2: Holly Niemi

In our second installment of welcoming the new WIDA bloggers, we would like to introduce you to Holly Niemi.

I am excited to be one of the new WIDA bloggers and thrilled to add to the online discourse surrounding ELLs.  This is a wonderful platform for us to share our insights, thoughts, and experiences.  My academics and professional interests include challenges surrounding language learning versus learning disabilities, increasing schools’ cross-cultural competencies, and empowering content area teachers to adapt and modify instruction for ELLs.  Most importantly on my agenda, I am more than simply an ESL teacher; I am an advocate for ELLs.  We are known in our schools as ESL teachers.  This title simplifies the true nature of our professional responsibilities; I believe that an ESL teacher assumes the role of an ESL advocate.  Advocacy is the heart of ESL education.  To all the ESL teachers out there reading this, think: how are you ESL advocates? 

Advocacy includes disseminating constructive and accurate information about ELLs.  It is an opportunity to showcase the contributions and value of ELLs to all those in the education arena:  administrators, PTAs, native English speaking students, teachers, school staff, school boards, and the community.    The ESL teacher provides a rich-language environment and is experienced on culturally and linguistically responsive teaching methods, but role of the ESL advocate includes a deeper complexity.  The ESL advocate provides professional development to content area teachers to maximize ELLs’ access to the curricula, as well as collaborating with content area teachers and other school staff to establish appropriate programs for ELLs of varying levels of English proficiency.  The ESL advocate has knowledge of the legal underpinnings, federal requirements and state guidelines governing the education of students with limited English proficiency.  As ESL advocates, we are constantly addressing affective needs of our ELLs that often times extend to their families that include providing a variety of school and community resources and services available to them. We are charged with the education and involvement of ELL families, other educators, students, and community members on issues and topics affecting ELLs. With the added role as advocates, we are sometimes faced with challenges, limitations and dilemmas.  Over the past 15 years, I have felt a shift in the connotation of ESL advocacy from positive to a neutral or more negative meaning.  The ESL teacher as an advocate is the link and intermediary to assist our schools in navigating the all-encompassing complex nature that is ESL; we are ESL advocates. Let’s continue to use our voice for those who have not yet found theirs.

Welcome, Holly.  In case you missed it, we introduced another new WIDA blogger, Heather Jung, yesterday.

Photos courtesy of Holly Niemi

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Welcoming New WIDA Bloggers, Part 1: Heather Jung

The goal for the WIDA blog has always been to give educators a way to look at things from the perspective of a peer who has an understanding of what educators face on a regular basis, and to offer new ideas or strategies.  That is why Tammy King was our blogger instead of WIDA staff.  WIDA has an amazing group of talented professionals who could contribute to the blog, but much like the goal of the WIDA National Conference, the intent of the blog is not to be about WIDA.  Rather, WIDA is the conduit for what is presented, so that it can be applicable to educators everywhere, regardless of Consortium membership.

Taking that goal in mind, we have reached out to several people to blog for us. We believe they will offer readers the information, understanding, and ideas that will create opportunities to enrich their practice, as well as a forum for thoughtful, informed discussion.

In the first of a series of introductions to our new bloggers, we are pleased to introduce Heather Jung.

Hello WIDA Community Members!

My name is Heather Jung and I am honored to have been asked by WIDA to share some of my experiences with you on their blog.

So who am I?

I have worked for 15 years with high needs students in public schools in Maryland and Virginia in the diverse melting pot of the Washington D.C. Metro area.  I have worked as a classroom teacher, a reading recovery teacher, and an ELL resource teacher.  I presented at the 2013 WIDA National Conference last October in Milwaukee and at the National Reading Recovery and K-6 Classroom Literacy Conferences in 2012, 2013 and 2014.  I currently serve as the first and second grade ELL Resource teacher.

My school is in Alexandria, Virginia (a suburb of Washington, D.C. bordering the Potomac River). We have approximately 650 students in grade PreK through Grade 6.  We are a Title 1 school and nearly 50% of our students live below the poverty line.   One third of our students are ELLs.  They come from a wide range of areas including: South America, the Middle East, and North Africa.   We have 22% mobility and a staff of over 100 people.

We are housed in a 55 year old one-story brick building with adjacent trailers, picnic tables and chairs or rocks for sitting.  We have a very active gardening program with more than 14,000 square feet of gardens.  Students, staff, and families in our community work together in the garden growing produce, plants, and trees indigenous to the state of Virginia.  We put on an International Day each year where the students and their families get to display their unique cultures with each other.  Staff members also go on a "Welcome Walk" to visit each student's home during the week before the each school year begins to welcome them back to school.

My personal life is also integrated in multicultural community. My husband emigrated here with his family from South Korea at the age of 4. We have friends from diverse backgrounds including, El Salvador, Peru, Cambodia, and Pakistan. Some came as children and some came as adults. All of them had to learn to communicate when they arrived. They have shared their stories and struggles with me. I will bring this knowledge and some of their stories toy blog as well as those from the children and families that I work with professionally.

As I begin this new journey as a blogger I want to start by saying that, behind every good teacher there is a great teacher that they collaborate with.  I have been very blessed to have had the support of phenomenal co-teachers, colleagues, and friends throughout my career!  It is my sincere hope that my blog posts will provide me with an opportunity to share their brilliance, creativity, and dedication with a larger community.

Welcome photo by Keith Tyler via Creative Commons.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Frequently Asked Questions

The phones in the WIDA Client Services Center (CSC) are ringing off the hook, so wanted to answer three of the most common questions that we’re getting this time of year. 

So sit back, grab some popcorn (easy on the butter!) and enjoy the answers to your most common questions. Next month we’ll take a look at a few more questions, and with a little bit of luck we’ll be able to answer some of your inquiries before they even come up for you.

Question One: What’s my username and password?

Answer One: Good question! The short answer is, we don’t know your password. Not quite what you were expecting, but it’s true. As a security precaution, we can’t see any passwords. So if you lost yours, not to worry, you can retrieve it. Simply click on the “Forgot Password” button and you can have your username and a link for you to reset your password emailed to you. If you don’t get it within a few minutes, check your Spam or Junk Mail. If it’s still not there, give us a call or drop us an email and we’ll be happy to help you find it.  

Question Two: How long does it take to complete the training course and quizzes?

Answer Two: Another good question! And….we don’t have the answer to that one either. Well, not a definitive answer at least. Since it really all depends on how fast you read, how long it takes you to review all of the materials really depends on you. We can estimate that it might take you somewhere between an hour to an hour and a half, but realistically it could be shorter or longer than that. The most important part is that you know and understand how to administer the assessment to your students.

Question Three: If a student doesn’t have a Pre-ID label, what information do I need to fill out on the back cover of the test booklet?

Answer Three: Finally, one that we know the answer to! Basically, you need to fill out all of the boxes that directly pertain to your student. So if they don’t have any accommodations, you wouldn’t need to fill in the accommodations box. All of the boxes are explained in detail on pages 20-27 of the Test Administration Manual (TAM).

Well, that’s all for now. Thanks for all the hard work that you do. If you have further questions (you know you do) feel free to send us an email or give us a call. We’re open from 8:00am-5:00pm Central Time, Monday-Friday. 866-276-7735 or

-Your Friendly CSC Team

Question mark image from Flickr via Creative Commons