An assembly of teachers from the tri-county area have been gathering at Claflin University since October to learn about best practices for teaching students who don’t speak English as their first language.
More than 40 teachers from Orangeburg Consolidated School Districts 3,4 and 5, Calhoun County School District and Bamberg County School District 2 received their official certification in June from the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education to teach English Language Learners (ELL) students. The workshop was hosted and conducted by Claflin University’s National Professional Development program.
“The teachers were very eager to learn. It is our hope that this will improve learning for the ever growing population of ELL students. We believe every child should be able to thrive academically despite educational barriers,” said Dr. Nan Li, assistant professor of education.
Aysha Lamgir, a first grade teacher at Marshall Elementary School in Orangeburg, said has learned many new strategies to teach all of her students – but particularly ELL students - in the past few months.
“I’ve learned how to make that bridge between their language and ours,” said Lamgir, who just completed her first year of teaching. “They can become involved in lessons and I can figure out which students are learning or not.”
Lamgir said many of the workshops have focused on utlizing visual aids, such as pictures and games, to stimulate learning for non-English speaking students.
Samajema Davis, an ELL instructor in Orangeburg Consolidated School District 3, pointed out the number of ELL students in her district increased from 25 to 35 in the last year.
“It’s steadily growing,” she said.
She said many teachers are awestruck and overwhelmed by teaching these students because of the language barrier. “This program is showing teachers how to engage the students so they are not on the outside looking in,” Davis noted.
Li is nationally acknowledged in education for her work with ELL students. Last fall, the U.S. Department of Education awarded Claflin University a $289,645 grant to continue and expand a program Li chartered to improve the professional development of teachers instructing Hispanic students who don’t speak English as their first language.
Her NPD program previously received a five-year, $1 million from the U.S. Department of Education. Thus far, Li’s NPD program has received rave reviews from local school officials and student teachers. Participating children have shown remarkable improvement in their English reading and writing abilities. The latest award – potentially worth nearly $1.5 million in grant funding – is affording Claflin the opportunity to annually train both 24 students and 24 current teachers best practices to instruct ESOL students.