Carpentersville teacher says students' backgrounds important
Jessica Cano, who teaches English language learners, has been at Golfview Elementary in Carpentersville for nine years.
"I was a long term substitute for five years and became a certified teacher four years ago," she said.
Cano holds a special education bachelor's degree with a minor in visual disabilities, and a master's of science in education with an English as a Second Language/Bilingual Endorsement.
The Daily Herald caught up with Cano to learn about her job as an ESL teacher.
Q. How did you decide to become an ESL teacher?
Cano. As I worked as a long term substitute, I realized I enjoyed the classroom environment working with students. Being bilingual myself, I understood the difficulties of being a second language learner, which inspired me to continue my education.
Q. What are some of the challenges in working English language learners?
Cano. Some of the challenges an ESL teacher encounters are: minimal background knowledge and insufficient homework support because English isn't their primary language. A primary factor that impedes success is that students have limited academic language. Pupils come to school eager to learn and socialize with each other, and this often means that students learn social language at a faster rate compared to the academic language.
Q. How has teaching ESL changed over the years? For example, what types of technology do you use in the classroom now that was not available previously, and how does that enhance students' learning?
Cano. ESL education has evolved over the years. It has gone from being a textbook based to curriculum incorporated with technology. Our district is using the 1-to-1 technology, which means students are working on curriculum through the use of various programs.
For instance, students are using Google Docs where they are learning how to write and publish their work. Teachers are able to provide instant feedback and collaboration. There are programs, such as I-Ready, which foster individualized instruction to support students' learning.
Q. What qualities should an ESL teacher have to be successful?
Cano. ESL teachers should have knowledge of students' culture, customs and traditions. It is essential that an ESL teacher value the students' culture by allowing them to share beliefs and celebrations.
An ESL teacher should incorporate literacy from the students' background into classroom instruction, so that students feel proud and validated and form connections.
Finally, I believe that an ESL teacher should create a classroom that is nurturing, where diversity is celebrated.
Q. How do you motivate your students?
Cano. I motivate my students by celebrating successes throughout the day. To me, it is important to recognize every little effort students make because it helps build their confidence in their second language.
In addition, I scaffold instruction by modeling and gradually releasing responsibilities toward independence. Some students may need sentence starters, while others may need a buddy system (mixing abilities). In conclusion, having students see, hear, touch, speak and move around keeps them engaged.