Our Kids Summer Institute Focuses on Success for English Language Learners

Our Kids Summer Institute

Paula Markus of the Toronto District School Board presents on Helping ELL Students with Limited Prior Schooling LEAP into Success at the Our Kids Summer Institute at Valley High School June 19-20.

Teachers from across the state are discovering new strategies for working with English language learners during the Our Kids Summer Institute at Valley High School June 19-20. Speakers who are leaders in diversity education across the country will be sharing their experiences and expertise in serving English Language Learners.

“It is an honor to host the Kids First Conference in the West Des Moines Community School District,” said Laurene Lanich, associate superintendent for teaching and learning services. “This conference provides an opportunity for educators across the state to celebrate diversity and to learn more about effective practices in serving ELLs.  It is exciting to see hundreds of educators take time during their summer to attend such an important conference.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Kristen French is the director of the Center for Education, Equality and Diversity mad is an assistant professor in elementary education at Western Washington University. Her presentation encourages educators to create conditions for student empowerment, challenge perceptions of students and honor their perseverance.

Our Kids Summer Institute

Mariachi Picoso, an eighth grade Mariachi band from Denison Middle School, performs for the attendees of the Our Kids Summer Institute.

“The keynote presenter this morning had a very interesting concept,” said Ann Marie Kern, a teacher with the Ames Community School District. “Even we who work with such a diverse population, we need to think about ourselves in relating what happened with the Indians and study more about our American Indian heritage to understand more about what happened in our country. And then how we can relate that to the English Language Learners was something I had never really thought about.”

Other topics covered during the conference were co-teaching/collaboration strategies to support ELL students, technology integration, writing considerations for ELL students, success for ELL students with disabilities, leadership in change, ELL policy and Common Core.

Presenters for the breakout sessions included:

  • Steven Weiss, project director of the Stanford ELL Leadership Network
  • Paula Markus, ELS/ELD program coordinator with the Toronto District Board, Canada’s largest and most culturally diverse school board
  • Toni Theisen, the 2009 ACTFL Teacher of the Year and French teacher at Loveland High School in Loveland, Colo.
  • Dr. Linda Ventriglia-Navarrette, director for the Center for Teaching Excellence and an associate professor at National University
  • Dr. Stephanie Wessels, assistant professor of elementary education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Dr. Andrea Honigsfeld, professor at Molloy College in Rockville Center, N.Y.
  • Dr. Maria G. Doe, assistant professor at coordinator of the MS TESOL program at Molloy College
  • Dr. Diane Rodriguez, associate professor at East Carolina University
  • Dr. Rebecca Freeman Field, sociolinguist and language educator and adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania

After the technology session with presenter Toni Theisen that had ideas for new activities and teaching tools for her students, Kerns was excited to be able to implement what she had learned in her classroom next year.

“This technology [session] was fabulous,” she explained. “I have some things to do this summer.”

The Our Kids Summer Institute is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Education, Heartland AEA, Prairie Lakes AEA, William Penn University and the West Des Moines Community Schools.