Sean Pang is a former ELL language learner. He came to USA from China when he was 6. He is the Washington Post Teacher of the Year, also teacher of the year by his colleagues at Rockvill H.S.
Here are some highlights from his interview:
- He admired his teachers being understanding, patient, and giving him “wait time” to figure things out and that is why he’s a teacher today.
- He was in ESOL for 3-4 years, when he “graduated” from ESOL he had confidence and was in classes with everyone else. He could play and speak to everyone and he felt “normal” like everyone else. (Research supports if you are literate in your home language and have parental support, an EL can be in the ESOL Program 3-4 years)
- His parents encouraged him to speak his native language at home while he was learning English (Research shows that if ELs are fluent in their home language, they can transfer their skills to learning English)
- After ESOL he was mainstreamed into the classroom. He felt he did not have enough language to keep up. (Research shows it can takes to 7-9 years to learn Academic language – He was an REL [reclassified ESOL student] and MSDE tracks RELs for 2 years – RELs may still need support). He still had this huge learning curve. Even though his parents did not speak English, they encouraged him to read, had weekly trips to the library, his parents read with him to learn English too, (parent involvement)
- His first books were comic books because pictures are a universal language (this reminded me of Andy in 5th grade!)
- He participated in school activities to learn about American life
- He felt he “caught up” in school by the time he was in high school (research supports it takes ELLs 7-9 years to get caught up)
- The power of a teacher that encouraged him to take AP classes
- As a former ELL and as a teacher now - he encourages his ELLs to try new things and to build confidence in themselves
- Rockville has talent (listen to this great idea!)
- Can Do approach by WIDA – looking at what ELs Can Do!