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The ‘privilege’ of diversity in NYC schools

New York Teacher
People sitting at tables in a conference room

It’s a busy full house at the Foundations of an Equitable, Successful and Sustainable 2-Way Dual Language Program workshop.

A special buzz of energy marked the fourth annual UFT Conference on Effective Instruction for English Language Learners — ExcELLing — at union headquarters in Manhattan on Oct. 19. After a spirited welcome by UFT President Michael Mulgrew and AFT and UFT Vice President Evelyn DeJesus and a song from city Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, the 700 participants headed off for a day of challenging workshops.

Lirika Preci, a veteran science teacher at MS 136 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, declared the day “excellent” as she put down the tweezers she had been using to successfully dig out and identify the tiny bones in a pellet an owl had regurgitated after a dinner of mole, shrew and birds.

“When you do something cool like this hands-on experiment, you give your students a conversation piece,” said UFT District 7 Representative William Woodruff, who was the facilitator of the Creating Conversational Opportunities Through Hands-On Science workshop.

The focus of most of the workshops was building academic and social vocabulary for ELL students across subject areas and age levels.

“Creating conversational opportunities is important,” Preci said, “and it’s always good to hear and learn new perspectives on how to accomplish that.”

In his opening remarks, Mulgrew said that what some see as the incredible challenge of the language diversity in New York City public schools, we see as “a privilege.”

“Bring it on,” he declared. “We are dedicated to all the children who come to us. Thank you to all of you here today. You are making these children’s lives better.”

The chancellor urged participants not to view their ELL students as having a “deficit,” but as becoming skilled in multiple languages. He told the attendees they are “changing the world, one multi-language learner at a time.”

Emily Quan, a 2nd-grade teacher at PS 76 in the Bronx, declared her intent to come to next year’s conference after “a productive day that will help me strengthen the way I plan and prepare my lessons.”

Paraprofessional Albana Daci of PS 354 in Jamaica, Queens, has never missed a conference. This one, like all the others, was “very informative,” she said, and the owl workshop “was so hands-on and visual it kept us all engaged and would do the same for our students.”

The Luis O. Reyes Award was presented to Dr. Santiago Wood, the executive director of the National Association for Bilingual Education, who challenged participants to “look at your ELL students as creative geniuses, border crossers.”

DeJesus, who chaired the conference, cheered attendees for their great work. “I know you have a lot on your plate,” she said. “Use the day to learn and to network.”

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Ladies talking to each other in a crowded room

It was all about getting to know each other at the start of the Understanding Language Acquisition and Disabilities workshop.

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Women creating art

Julissa Cruz, a paraprofessional at PS 89 in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, registers delight at her creation in the workshop Using Open-ended Materials to Scaffold Language Acquisition Pre-K–2

Erica Berger
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Woman holds owl pellet

Rashelle Franco of the Pre-K Center at PS 747 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, holds up the jaw bone she has discovered in an owl pellet at the Creating Conversational Opportunities Through Hands-On Science workshop.

Erica Berger
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Women creating art

Paraprofessional Sarah Nicholas (left) and teacher Susan Chen, both of the Pre K Center at PS 747 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, react to finding bones in the owl pellets.

Erica Berger
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Two people posing for camera with crowd watching

Conference participants line up for photographs with Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza.

Erica Berger
Image
People sitting at tables in a conference room

It’s a busy full house at the Foundations of an Equitable, Successful and Sustainable 2-Way Dual Language Program workshop.

Image
Two women talking

Kimberly Gleason (left) of PS 89 in Cypress Hills and Cristina Tur of PS 33 in Chelsea confer on factors that contribute to a culturally responsive classroom at the Impact of Culture on Student Achievement workshop.

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Man and two women

Developing Strong Relations with Families workshop presenter Fausto Salazar of Fordham University checks in with Brooklyn members Alexandra Hernandez (center) of PS 257 in Williamsburg and Amma Minta of PS 135 in Flatbush.

Erica Berger
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Award winner showing aware surrounded by others in front of an electronic screen

Luis O. Reyes Award winner Dr. Santiago Wood (holding award), the executive director of the National Association for Bilingual Education, is surrounded by (from left) Mirza Sanchez-Medina, the city Department of Education chief academic officer for multilingual learners; Dr. Luis O. Reyes, a member of the New York State Board of Regents; conference chair and UFT Vice President for Education Evelyn DeJesus; Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza; and Linda Chen, the DOE’s chief academic officer.

Erica Berger
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Image
Ladies talking to each other in a crowded room

It was all about getting to know each other at the start of the Understanding Language Acquisition and Disabilities workshop.

Image
Women creating art

Julissa Cruz, a paraprofessional at PS 89 in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, registers delight at her creation in the workshop Using Open-ended Materials to Scaffold Language Acquisition Pre-K–2

Erica Berger
Image
Woman holds owl pellet

Rashelle Franco of the Pre-K Center at PS 747 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, holds up the jaw bone she has discovered in an owl pellet at the Creating Conversational Opportunities Through Hands-On Science workshop.

Erica Berger
Image
Women creating art

Paraprofessional Sarah Nicholas (left) and teacher Susan Chen, both of the Pre K Center at PS 747 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, react to finding bones in the owl pellets.

Erica Berger
Image
Two people posing for camera with crowd watching

Conference participants line up for photographs with Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza.

Erica Berger
Image
People sitting at tables in a conference room

It’s a busy full house at the Foundations of an Equitable, Successful and Sustainable 2-Way Dual Language Program workshop.

Image
Two women talking

Kimberly Gleason (left) of PS 89 in Cypress Hills and Cristina Tur of PS 33 in Chelsea confer on factors that contribute to a culturally responsive classroom at the Impact of Culture on Student Achievement workshop.

Image
Man and two women

Developing Strong Relations with Families workshop presenter Fausto Salazar of Fordham University checks in with Brooklyn members Alexandra Hernandez (center) of PS 257 in Williamsburg and Amma Minta of PS 135 in Flatbush.

Erica Berger
Image
Award winner showing aware surrounded by others in front of an electronic screen

Luis O. Reyes Award winner Dr. Santiago Wood (holding award), the executive director of the National Association for Bilingual Education, is surrounded by (from left) Mirza Sanchez-Medina, the city Department of Education chief academic officer for multilingual learners; Dr. Luis O. Reyes, a member of the New York State Board of Regents; conference chair and UFT Vice President for Education Evelyn DeJesus; Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza; and Linda Chen, the DOE’s chief academic officer.

Erica Berger