#1StudentNWI: Lake Central High School highlights the English Language Learners program and school board member elect

#1StudentNWI: Lake Central High School highlights the English Language Learners program and school board member elect

English Language Learners program

The English Language Learners (ELL) program seeks to help Lake Central High School students who are not native English speakers learn the language in a classroom setting. Across the school corporation, there are ELL teachers who work with these students daily in order to provide them with a successful learning experience.

“We have this program to help the students acquire enough English skills to be successful in the classroom,” said elementary ELL teacher Liz Vossos. “Some of them may speak English but don’t have the higher-level vocabulary skills because they have a different language primarily being spoken at home.”

Some students in the program are from other countries while others are from the Region. There is also a newcomer program that specifically focuses on aiding those who have moved to the area from another country.

“It is a common misconception that the program is only for students who are coming from different countries,” said middle school ELL teacher Guadalupe Alvarado. “Most of them are born in the United States and speak a different language at home with their parents or siblings.”

To help students understand what is going on in class, they use technology. Various translation apps help students to understand what is being said in class, which in turn helps them learn and retain the information.

“We use iPads with translation apps on them and give teachers strategies and techniques to use in the classroom, such as labeling various items, to help students learn some common vocabulary words. We then work on the more rigorous academic vocabulary as well,” Vossos said.

ELL teachers also spend a lot of time preparing their students for testing. There are many state tests that students are required to take that are not adapted to languages other than English, so extensive preparation is needed.

In addition to standardized tests, students may struggle with taking tests in class and working on everyday assignments. Parents of ELL students are invited to attend the annual meeting with teachers and school administrators to discuss and plan a path for the student’s success.

“We have annual meetings to discuss the individual learning plans for all the ELL program students,” Alvarado said. “At the middle school level, the ELL teacher, coordinator, the English teacher of that student, and the principal of the school are present to help decide on the accommodations for that student. This helps us to see what would service that student best in a classroom.”

If students speak the same language as one of their peers, it is encouraged that they communicate and use translanguaging to help each other learn English. Translanguaging is when students use their first language and the new language they are learning to communicate.

“We encourage keeping the culture and speaking their first language at home,” said elementary ELL teacher Tina Ostrom. “Decades ago, it was sort of an ‘English only’ model and now, that’s not encouraged. We want them to be bilingual because the more fluent they are in their first language, the more connections they can make in their new one. It helps them to learn and we want to keep their culture alive too.”

School board member elect

In the 2020 election, members of the community within the Lake Central School Corporation voted to fill two of the five seats on the school board. Dr. Jennifer Medlen was elected for the Dyer seat, and Janice Malchow remains the at-large representative of the school board. 

“Over the past couple of years, I’ve tried to find a way to give back to the community that has given me so much over the years. I had been actively following the school board pages and I decided that the time is right even though things are so chaotic,” Medlen said. 

COVID-19 has brought many challenges this school year. Staff members are especially impacted by the dual-platform learning style that was implemented as a result of the pandemic.  

“The teachers are making the best of a difficult situation,” Medlen said.  “Teaching in-person and online at the same time is very taxing, and I’m worried about them. Giving them extra time on Wednesdays is nice, but it does not take away from the fact that they are quite busy teaching in-person and online five days a week. That is a lot for them.”

Medlen has many years of experience in the education field. She was part of many different programs and committees within the years she spent as a student as well as a teacher. 

“I’ve been a teacher for 25 years, and a student for about as long. I have a doctorate degree in higher education and a master’s degree in math. School has always been a huge part of my life,” she said. 

Medlen values the world of education and is excited about the new opportunities this position will bring.

“I value education very highly and it’s so important to ignite a love for learning as much as you can,” she said. “As a future member of the school board, I want to support students, teachers, and parents as much as I can while finding ways to maximize the opportunities of all the students.”