English language learners shine at Mark Twain Elementary

Students in the English Language Development program at Mark Twain Elementary School are making great strides in school with support and encouragement from teachers, staff and families. The primary goal of the ELD program is for every student to learn to read, write, speak and listen in English every day.

“We have a wonderful group of students and I am very proud of them and their progress,” said Tina Howell, ELD teacher at Mark Twain. “The families of our ELD students are also very engaged which is so important to their success.”

Teacher Tina Howell engages students in the ELD program at Mark Twain Elementary School.

Teacher Tina Howell engages students in the ELD program at Mark Twain Elementary School.

According to Howell, communication with families is a major focus for the school’s ELD program.

“My assistant, Georgenne Kuenzi is a very important life line to our Spanish speaking families. She listens to their questions, understands their concerns and always goes out of her way to get them answers and information. She makes sure that homework, classroom information and school news is translated into Spanish. We also have a school phone that is used to communicate with families in Spanish. This has been a very successful and positive part of our program according to the feedback we have received from parents. The education and support we provide is important to them and is very appreciated by their families,” said Howell.

Howell explained that in addition to getting students to grade level in English Language Arts, her personal goal is for all ELD students to feel like they belong, have something to contribute, and are an integral part of the school community.

“I see kids thriving in a variety of ways that aren’t measured by a standardized test. Being willing to get up in front of their peers to speak and use the language confidently is a big deal,” said Howell. “In our class, students work a lot on speaking individually to me, with partners, in groups, and in front of the class. As the year has progressed, students are more willing to volunteer to share their opinions and their answers in my class and in their regular education class. Additionally, I see that they feel like a community. They are proud of their heritage and they feel welcome in our school.”

Student academic success is measured through the computerized STAR test in reading. Howell said that Mark Twain students are making notable progress, especially in vocabulary acquisition and use. To date, 11 out of 17 second grade students are on track to be at grade level by the end of the school year. This is significant because it can take five to seven years in school for a second language student to catch up to his English speaking peers.

“I have also seen significant growth in the students’ self-confidence and understanding of school related language and expectations. I feel like I have made a personal connection with each child and they know that I genuinely care for them. In addition, they know that I have high expectations in regards to behavior and academic growth. Daily, students come to us to share and ask for help resolving or understanding issues. I am so glad that we have created an environment where students feel loved and listened to.”