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  • 25 Aug 2021 8:35 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Dr. Jana More, VATESOL President 

    I always love a good chance to learn and grow, and on June 15th and 16th, the VDOE certainly delivered an amazingly informative program. The 2021 Summer Education Equity Institute focused on Teaching African American History through Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies, as well as Culturally Responsive and Inclusive Education Practices. My first thoughts were that while these were very informative talks, they might not have a lot to do with language learners, or perhaps only tangentially. Boy, was I wrong!

    So I supposed right off I should mention that there were so many wonderful speakers, and just not the time or ability to listen to them all. I tried to choose from a collection of speakers around the country, with varied experiences and backgrounds. Should I name drop here? I don’t know...they were all so good, and I just could not pick out one or two who were “more fantastic than the others.” They were all unified in that history matters. Not just one person or culture’s history, but all the stories from history matter. And if we do not seek them out, they may remain hidden.

    I think of my students, whether born in the U.S. or elsewhere, who come with their stories. These stories make up who they are, and need to be told by them. I know, I know, we always say this. Of course we do this! But here’s the thing...

    Am I really listening to my students and their stories?

    Or am I jumping in and taking over their story because I have heard as much as I can take in? Am I really listening to their story, or am I using it to label them as well as the expectations for them? Am I really listening to their story and appreciating how much they have to offer? Am I listening?

    The other lesson I took away from the conference was the need to show how our students have role models from history, if we help bring them to light. History tends to be written by the victors, and the majority culture or race. Oftentimes, it eradicates minorities simply by not mentioning them at all. It is so important that as educators we help our students see where their race, culture, and ethnic groups fit into history.

    Take, for example, the past thirty years of American history. Who helped shape that? Was it only one race or ethnic group? Or were the advances of this nation possible because people of all races and ethnicities contributed and were a part of that? Our students need to know that many different individuals from many different cultures have played important roles in our history. These are role models.

  • 22 Jul 2021 10:10 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Virginia TESOL practitioners now span the globe. Rebecca Raab shares about her recent journey to accepting a teacher educator position at the College of the Marshall Islands. Rebecca served as the president of Virginia TESOL from 2018-2020. She currently serves in the role of past president and nominating chair.

    Tell us a little bit about your background and how you ended up in the TESOL field:

    I was an anthropology major in undergrad and was bitten by the travel bug very early in life, so I’ve always been fascinated by different cultures and languages. However, I didn’t feel a strong pull to complete an advanced degree in anthropology. About 6 months after graduating, several of my friends left to teach in Japan. This got me thinking about teaching English internationally. My mother, a former K-12 English teacher, advised me to get a teaching license as it would be a credential I could always use. Thus, I began a master’s program at Virginia Tech in ESL with every intention of teaching abroad. Student teaching at Patrick Henry High School in Roanoke, Virginia, however, made me fall in love with teaching multilingual learners in US K-12 settings, and I decided to teach in the US for several years, thinking that eventually I would go abroad. My career and life then took some interesting turns, with TESOL being the constant. I’ve taught K-12 multilingual learners in VA and NC, and I was the Director of Writing Support and ESL programs at Averett University. I completed my PhD at Virginia Tech in Curriculum and Instruction studying the experiences and supports of new ESL and bilingual education teachers in 2020.

    What led you to accepting your new position in the Marshall Islands?

    When I was close to finishing my PhD, I entered the wild west of the higher education job market. I applied to schools all over the US and abroad. However, I vividly remember the April 2020 afternoon when I saw the job posting for the College of the Marshall Islands (CMI) on HigherEdJobs. I just knew I had to apply, and I felt that it was where I needed to be - I felt physically pulled to apply. The pandemic, however, made things challenging. I was interviewed in July of 2020, but due to the pandemic, CMI could not move ahead as the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) had closed its borders (and they are still closed as of July 2021). I was disappointed, but still determined to go abroad. Luckily, I had the opportunity to teach at Radford University as a 1-year full-time temporary hire for the 2020-2021 academic year, and I spent the fall of 2020 researching other opportunities internationally. Then on January 13, 2021, exactly 6 months after my last contact with CMI, they emailed me asking if I was still interested in the position. Yes--yes I was!

    What will your job look like?

    We are finalizing my schedule in the next week or two, so I’m not 100% sure of what courses I’ll be teaching. However, CMI is a community college that has an associates and bachelors degree program in elementary education, so I will be teaching courses across the elementary education department. I’m really excited because it looks like I’ll have a number of practicum students which means I’ll be spending quite a bit of time in the local schools observing future teachers learning to teach! This is a great video about CMI and some Marshallese history.

    Tell us more about the Marshall Islands - a country that many readers may have never heard of. What have you learned or experienced there so far?

    To learn more about the Marshall Islands, Google them! I didn’t know much at all, but the US used several of the atolls during the nuclear arms race in the 1940s-60s as a testing ground. Many were forced to leave their homes and can never return due to nuclear contamination. Because of this, the US government provides aid to the RMI, and RMI citizens can travel, work, and live in the US. Much of the population lives in Majuro, the capital, and Ebeye is another larger population center.

    To learn more about the Marshall Islands, I recommend reading Peter Rudiak-Gould’s Surviving Paradise: One Year on a Disappearing Island. Plus, I’ve enjoy reading their local newspaper and browsing the Marshall Islands Guide website.

    Any adventures yet?

    No super fun adventures yet as I am still in quarantine. I guess the adventure has been getting here. Due to the Covid-19 border closures, my departure date kept changing. I thought for a while I was leaving in April and then May. Then, on June 16 I received an email asking if I could possibly be in Honolulu on June 18 as I had snagged a seat on a repatriation flight. The repatriation flights are reserved for RMI citizens who have been stranded due to the pandemic. I was very lucky to get a spot. So, I packed in a hurry and began the adventure with less than 48 hours notice (the fun thing is, I’d been pretty much packed since April, so it didn’t take long).

    The RMI government requires a 28-day quarantine to enter the country. I entered my first 14-day quarantine on June 20th, 2021 in Honolulu along with 38 Marshallese repats. On June 5th, we flew to Kwajalein, an atoll in the RMI where the US military has a base. In Kwajalein, we entered into our second 14-day quarantine. As I am writing this, I just had my last COVID-19 test, and hopefully will be able to leave quarantine tomorrow and fly to Majuro, the atoll I will be living on for the next three years.

    So far I have witnessed breathtaking sunrises and beautiful blue water. I’ve made two friends, my roommate, who is returning from New Zealand where she completed her master’s degree, and the lab technician who runs all our COVID tests (he is friends with my roommate and lives on Ebeye, which is an island across from Kwajalein). He is an excellent photographer, and if you have Instagram, I suggest following him (@michaelove692 and @ebeyeislandhome). I’ve also watched hours of the Armed Forces Network Kwajalein broadcasts as our television network is the US military base TV (this is a first for me).

    How has your career in TESOL prepared you for this new position?

    I truly believe everything has led me to this point. My years in K-12 schools in NC and VA. Teaching at Averett University, Virginia Tech, and Radford. All my travels around the world. I would not be here had I not had all my past experiences. Additionally, serving on the VATESOL board has prepared me for taking on new challenges. I never thought in 2008 when I attended my first VATESOL conference that I would be VATESOL president one day. And when I started teaching in 2009, I never thought I’d be teaching future teachers in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in 2021...but here I am, and I am so excited and grateful for the opportunity.

    Do you have any professional or personal goals for your time in the Marshall Islands?

    I would love to learn Marshallese (i.e. Kajin Majel), and I intend to take several courses on Kajin Majel and Mantin Majel (Marshallese culture) at CMI. I also want to learn as much as I can about their schools and help future teachers become the best teachers they can be. And...island hopping around Micronesia is on the agenda, but with Covid, who knows when that will happen. For now, I’m simply excited to leave my 28-day quarantine behind, take a walk, swim, and go outside whenever I want.

    What else would you share with our VATESOL readers?

    Believe that the impossible is possible. You never know where your life will take you! And, my 28-day quarantine has actually been incredibly relaxing and peaceful (this has been a lovely surprise). Again, the impossible is possible.

    Feel free to follow me on Instagram @rebeccaraineraab, Facebook (Rebecca Raab) or email me And if you ever want to visit, please let me know!

  • 10 May 2021 11:02 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It sounds intimidating... submitting a proposal to present at a conference. We’re here to demystify the process and encourage you to submit a proposal for VATESOL’s first virtual conference this fall.

    First, let's break down the submission form. If it’s your first time considering a presentation at a conference, the submission form may seem overwhelming. Don’t worry… it’s really just three main sections of information:

    • Presenter Information: Share your contact information with us so that we can notify you if your proposal is accepted and credit you in our program! However, our proposal review process is fully anonymous - board members won’t be able to see your name on your submission until after all proposals have been reviewed and accepted or denied.
    • Presentation Type & Target Audience: Help us see where your presentation will fit within the organization of the conference. The Target Audience and Topic Emphasis fields are included in our program as a way for participants to easily locate sessions that may be most relevant to their current field or area of interest.
    • Presentation Details: Share with us the title, summary, and abstract of your proposed presentation. The title and summary will be printed in the conference program for participants, while the abstract is for our proposal reviewers to learn more about what you are proposing to present. Don’t stress… You aren’t expected to write a doctoral dissertation here! Just give us a clear and descriptive overview of your presentation: What information will you share? What will a participant walk away with after hearing your presentation? Be sure not to include any identifying information (like your school division, university, or hometown) in the abstract.

    Top Tips for Writing Your Proposal:

    1. Start with the theme. Past VATESOL board member Marie Rose-McCully shared:

    “Think about the conference as a conversation. How will your presentation fit into the conversation? What are you adding to the conversation? The reason we have a conference theme is so that people can engage in that shared conversation, examining a theme from multiple angles with even more perspectives. Proposals that do not add to that conversation feel out of place.”

    Our fall 2020 virtual conference theme is: “Next Steps for Multilingual Learners.” What great conversation pieces do you have to share with us?

    2. Follow the rubric. Current VATESOL teacher education SIG leader, Katya Koubek, highlights the importance of studying the rubric and ensuring that your proposal clearly meets the criteria. Clarity is key, so be sure to revise your writing before submitting!

    This year’s proposals will be evaluated for selection on the basis of the following criteria:

    • clear statement of objective
    • clear summary

    • current importance of topic in the field
    • focus and organization of abstract
    • relevance to conference theme and target audience
    • appropriateness of content for session duration

    3. Consider the audience. Current VATESOL president, Jana Moore, wrote:

    “What makes a great proposal is what the listener will get out of it. I don't want to go and listen to a speaker talk because they believe they are fabulous. I want to hear people talk about research or things they are doing in the classroom, and how it can be tweaked for my own purposes, or how that impacts what I'm doing. You can read a certain level of enthusiasm in proposals, and outstanding ones are those that ‘pop.’”

    That's it! Remember, what makes a great conference is a diverse group of presenters and presentations. We are looking for proposals from all stakeholders: K-12 teachers, administrators, adult educators, teacher educators, professors and university-level instructors, students... anyone who has something to contribute to our conversation!

    You can submit a proposal for the Fall 2020 Virtual VATESOL Conference "Next Steps for Multilingual Learners" through June 1:

    Click Here

    If you have any questions regarding our conference or submitting proposals, please email

  • 01 Apr 2021 8:48 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Check out our latest VATESOL podcast episode!

    Two Fists of Cilantro: Lifting up the Experience and Knowledge of Multilingual Families

    Renata Germino is a Newcomer Specialist working in Charlottesville, Virginia. In this podcast she talks with VATESOL Membership Chair, Jeannie Pfautz, about different projects she manages that celebrate multilingual learners and families with whom she works. She also spends time sharing knowledge about applying for different grants, working with community partners, and empowering young people to share their stories. Renata is happy to answer any follow-up questions you have. She can best be reached at

    Here are a few of the grants discussed in the podcast: 

    You can subscribe to the VATESOL podcast on or by searching VATESOL Together on Breaker, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, or Spotify!

  • 27 Feb 2021 12:43 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    VATESOL compiled quotes via an anonymous survey to lift up the voices of teachers, students, and administrators from the field of English learner education during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read their statements by watching the silent video presentation here:

  • 14 Feb 2021 12:35 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Happy Valentine's Day from VATESOL to all of our members and supporters!

    We are celebrating with a month of spreading love and kindness, and we hope you will join us in these efforts. Click on the video below to see how a few of our VATESOL Board Members have given or experienced acts of kindness this month, and then share your own in the comments or by tagging VATESOL on social media! ♥♥

  • 11 Feb 2021 12:56 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The regular 2021 session of the Virginia General Assembly has ended, but Governor Northam called for a special session to give lawmakers more time to work through the proposed bills. 

    Two of the bills we have been tracking were left in the House Appropriations committee. The first one, HB 1929, was a large Standards of Quality bill which would have lowered the student-teacher ratio for K-12 English language instructors in proportion to English proficiency level, according to the student’s most recent WIDA ACCESS score. The new ratios would have been:

    • 1 teacher for every 25 students at Level 1, 

    • 1 teacher for every 30 students at Level 2,

    • 1 teacher for every 40 students at Level 3, and

    • 1 teacher for every 58 students for all other English learners.

    The second bill we were watching closely, HB 1915, would have increased Virginia teacher pay to approach the national teacher salary average. 

    Essentially, both of these bills were considered, but the required funding for the bill was not approved.

    Four of the bills we have been watching were continued until the special session begins today. See the graphic below for a summary of other bills we have been following:


    Contacting your delegates and informing them of your position on important issues is a great way to stay involved. If you are not sure who your representatives are, you can find out here. You can call or email your representatives, or even tag them on social media!

    If you have questions or concerns, please reach out to Jessica Klein, the VATESOL Legislative Liaison, at
  • 10 Feb 2021 10:48 PM | Anonymous member

    With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, VATESOL is focusing this month around ways to spread kindness! This image features some suggestions for building student relationships during virtual learning. We hope you can try one or more of these this month!

  • 14 Dec 2020 3:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Dr. Mary Jane Boynton, principal of Parkside Middle School in Prince William County, Virginia

    March 13, 2020. The day that will go down in history as when traditional K-12 public education ceased to exist. The day that required a systematic, world-wide educational paradigm shift. Oh, and it needs to happen in a matter of weeks-months, rather than years. The day when all school principals learned they would be required to lead their students, staff and parents through an unprecedented pandemic, with no guidelines or ‘map’ to follow.  

    There is nothing in the leadership research or manuals to guide or assist school leaders on how to lead through a pandemic. Nothing! There is no one to call and talk to for advice or suggestions. Everything is new, uncharted and let’s be honest, downright terrifying! 

    I have been an administrator for fourteen years, and a teacher since 1992. The majority of my teaching career has been teaching and working with English learners. Since 2011 I have been the principal at an extremely diverse middle school in Northern Virginia, with close to 30% of my students identified as English Language Learners. When reflecting on how my role as an administrator has changed and what I have learned, I cannot answer that question without focusing on how it relates to my English learners and their families. 

    Priorities changed, and no longer am I thinking about how to serve my students within the school building, COVID has required me to think beyond the traditional schoolhouse, and cautiously delve into the homes of my students, especially my EL students. 

    Where did I begin to meet the needs of my EL students?  

    Communicate, communicate, and communicate a little more! 

    • Taking the time to call each and every student and their family to ensure open lines of communication. 
    • When all else fails, even in the time of COVID, visit the home, following all safety precautions. 
    • Ensure there are ample staff to answer phone calls for help and assistance. 
    • Additionally, make sure that the staff who are answering the phones, and answering the door, are able to help with the new technology requirements. 

    Access to technology

    • Ensure all students have devices, and more importantly, they know how to operate them. 
    • Ensure all students have internet access.
    • Provide a variety of opportunities for students to receive assistance, while also ensuring the safety of students and school personnel. 

    Access to learning

    • Provide students and parents a variety of chances to learn how to access the new technology programs in person, and with opportunities to practice. 
    • Staff available, before, during, and after the school day to assist parents and students with all different types of technology issues, as many times as they need us to be there. 
    • When necessary, provide in-person learning opportunities for students. I know this is not available to everyone, but thankfully we have been able to provide this to students on a case-by-case basis. 

    And then remember to…

    1. Remain calm, transparent, and sincere when communicating with students, staff, and parents. 
    2. Be prepared to do whatever it takes. 
    3. No time for excuses, only solutions. 
    4. Focus on the positive, not the negative.
    5. Take the challenges in small sections, and work through them little by little. 
    6. Display high belief and high expectations of our students, teachers and staff. 
    7. Be willing to walk the walk and talk the talk. Don’t expect others to do what you are not willing to do yourself. 
    8. Get teachers and students what they need to be successful.
    9. Celebrate the successes, regardless of how small they are. 
    10. Be grateful, and share your gratitude with your students, staff, and parents. 

    As a school leader this time period has challenged each and every one of us beyond what any of us could have imagined. However, it has also allowed us to experience a true sense of community. Together, we can make a difference, and we can rise above every challenge, and succeed.

    Mary Jane Boynton is the principal at Parkside Middle Cambridge International School in Virginia, USA. She has taught and led in Scotland, Malta, Mexico as well as the United States. At Dr. Boynton's direction, Parkside earned the accreditation as the first Cambridge Professional Development program in the United States. She specializes in leading and learning schools with diverse student populations.  

  • 07 Dec 2020 1:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Brooke Boutwell, VATESOL K-12 Special Interest Group (SIG) Leader and middle school ESL teacher in Virginia Beach City Public Schools

    As the year 2020 nears a much anticipated and desired close, VATESOL is focusing on the theme of reflection throughout the month of December. Many teachers are thinking back on their journey into virtual/distance learning and adapting to the unprecedented demands of educators. As a brand new Virginia ESL teacher, I chose to reflect on my unique teaching experiences. 

    When I was an education major in college, my professor told us a joke that said something along the lines of when special education teachers try to out acronym the English as a second language teachers, no one wins. Little did I know that 5 years into my career, I could pour out more acronyms that I ever thought possible. Here’s why...

    NYSESLAT, NYSITELL, CR Part 154, and ENL. I was introduced to the TESOL world in Upstate New York. New York has its own state run laws and regulations for ESL programs, CR Part 154. I learned all about the New York State English as a Second Language Assessment and was called an ENL teacher (English as a New Language). My first year was a bit rocky, but after 3 years, I had the lingo down. I could tell you exactly how many minutes of support a transitioning ELL was legally required to receive a week. I knew that newcomers were required to have an ENL teacher in their English class at the secondary level. I knew this information so well that I was promoted to department head after my second year.  

    At the close of my third year teaching in New York, I moved to Texas and encountered another state run program. The TELPAS became a part of my daily vocabulary. I am a military wife, and my first move was to a small town in South Texas. I was hired as an English/ESOL teacher. I did not know exactly what that meant at the time. I didn't even ask because I was just happy that I had a job before I made the move across the country. I quickly learned that Texas regulations for ELLs were not as well defined as back home. I was the only ESL certified teacher for ninth grade. In fact, the person in charge of ESL for the district was actually a speech language pathologist, and knew very little about educating language learners. My job was to teach general education freshman English, but also support all other content teachers in differentiation for the ELLs in ninth grade. I learned all about TEKS, LPAC, and TABE just in time for me to pack up and move again. 

    Year 5 brought WIDA and the ACCESS test. My move (hopefully the last for a while) to Virginia was the first WIDA state I have taught in. It is crazy to think that out of the 35 states that have adopted WIDA, I just so happened to come from 2 that don’t. Another state, another whole new set of acronyms and regulations to learn. It’s December and I still confuse my co-workers when I ask about the HLQ (Home Language Questionnaire in NY) instead of the HLS (Home Language Survey). I am still learning the “Can Do” descriptors and the different names for proficiency levels. 

    After thinking about my personal experiences with ESL in 3 different states, I started Googling. I came across this great website that compares ESL programs across all 50 states. I will reluctantly admit I spent about 2 hours clicking on various links and falling down many rabbit holes comparing programs around the country. has data on funding, identification, and a variety of other information that you might find interesting. 

    I hope you all take the time this month to reflect on a topic important to you, whether it is teaching related or not.

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