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VATESOL Together

  • 29 Jul 2020 9:04 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Tammy Wik, Outreach Representative for ESL Library

    VATESOL and ESL Library are working together to provide a free one-hour professional development webinar, “Teaching Flexibly with ESL Library, on Wednesday, August 5 from 2-3pm EST. Click here to pre-register.

    Individuals who attend this webinar will receive a professional development certificate and, as a reminder, all active VATESOL Members also have a membership benefit of two months of free access to ESL Library's Plus plan!

    ESL Library is a subscription service for English language teachers used in over 10,000 schools around the world. They provide digital and printable materials that work together seamlessly. Take a look at their site to find relevant, engaging lesson plans, flashcards, and other resources for your students of all ages and levels. Their goal is to help create great teaching moments in your classroom, regardless of what "classroom" means to you today.

    The webinar will cover how you can use your free access to ESL Library to assign digital homework and get student results in real time, create custom digital or printable flashcard sets, and how to print or use ready-made PDFs.

    Have questions? No problem! The webinar will feature an active Q&A chat box where you can type your questions to the ESL Library team or swap ideas with other educators in our community.

    Register here to join the webinar and increase your teaching flexibility!

    Get 2 Months Free Access

    Looking to start your free access to ESL Library before the webinar? You must be an active VATESOL member to receive this benefit. Please contact to receive your code and the activation link, or to join/reactivate your VATESOL membership.

  • 07 Jul 2020 4:18 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Jessica Klein, VATESOL Advocacy and Legislative Liaison

    Advocacy can be big or small and the big parts can feel really intimidating, just like this building. We spend most of our K-12 education learning about and revering American symbols and landmarks like Capitol Hill. In Civics, we learn how to participate in our communities and local government, and in Government we learn the intricacies of our U. S. legislative system. Despite all our understanding of Congress, it can feel intangible. It’s like we’re watching ants at work in an ant farm, only our glass window is C-Span. Through participating in TESOL’s annual Advocacy and Policy Summit, I have realized that Congress is not meant for display; it is an elaborately constructed office complex made up of people who have a responsibility to listen when we have something to say.

    Each year, the TESOL International Advocacy and Policy Summit begins with a few days of advocacy training including updates on Federal budgets and policy briefings on pending legislation that affect English language professionals and learners. In recent years, the Summit culminated in a day of a hundred or more English language teachers descending upon the Capitol to meet with their Representatives and Senators. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Day of Action included attendees and their colleagues writing letters to their Members of Congress using TESOL’s Advocacy Action Center. Some attendees scheduled Zoom meetings or phone calls in addition to the letter writing campaign. I was able to snag a 15 minute phone call with a staffer from my Representative’s office and it turned out to be a success. 

    In 15 minutes or less (no this is NOT a GEICO commercial-I swear), the staffer and I were able to get introduced, go over a few of TESOL’s policy recommendations, and review our action items for after the meeting. In addition to asking Congress to reject the White House’s proposal to combine 29 funding streams within ESSA, I asked for my Rep. to support two bills in the House, the SPELL Act and the Reaching English Learners Act. The SPELL Act moves to amend the Higher Education Act to include English language teachers to the list of teaching positions that qualify for higher student loan debt forgiveness, joining math, science, and Special Education teachers. The Reaching English Learners Act proposes creating grants for teacher preparation programs at higher education institutions to prepare the next generation of teachers to meet the needs of English language learners. I followed up the next day to thank the staffer for his time and he had great news. Within 24 hours, the Representative gave his formal support by becoming a co-sponsor for both bills. I was obviously thrilled to hear how one small phone call led to a noticeable change so quickly. 

    The staffer ended our call with a request that I’d like to share. His message was that advocates do a really great job keeping them informed about trends in data like changing demographics and test scores, but what they really need from advocates is to act as their ears on the ground.  He asked for students’ stories and our anecdotes about how current policies affect their daily lives. He specifically wanted to know more about immigrant students and students living in poverty - two groups whose voices are often underrepresented. As EL teachers and teacher trainers, we are in a unique position to advocate for some of the most vulnerable students in our nation, and really what teacher doesn’t love telling story after story about their students? If you have a story to tell, call up one of your Members of Congress; I’m sure they would love to hear it. If they don’t, maybe they aren’t meeting their responsibility to listen to what you have to say. So remember, Capitol Hill is just an office, and each elected official has to earn their spot there. 

  • 26 Jun 2020 11:38 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    VATESOL teachers and board members shared their reflections of 2020 so far. We will be highlighting their stories on our social media platforms over the next few days.

    Be sure to stay in touch with VATESOL on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to participate in our exciting upcoming events!

  • 10 Apr 2020 10:56 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Dr. Jana Moore, ESOL teacher in Prince William County and VATESOL 2nd Vice President.

    In the new (and hopefully temporary) norm I wake up sometime before my kids and gulp down coffee while trying to structure out a plan for the day. Things to take into consideration? My husband, also on telework, will need to make a few conference calls: the kids and I will have to be super quiet during those times. I need my 5-year-old to keep working on letter and sight word recognition, and his awesome pre-school keeps sending me activities that he is used to doing on a daily basis. Some of these are reading activities, some math, and some even in Spanish! My 8-year-old is supposed to be working on his math. Reading is not a problem, because he has taken after his parents and inhales books. I can use that to my advantage to work on social studies. I still need to come up with some science or art activities. Then there is the house, which still needs to be cleaned, meals to be made (21 a week...ack!), dog to be walked, garden to be planted, the never-ending pile of laundry. I have to think about my job. I am a teacher. I am not “done with the school year,” but quite the opposite. I have to learn how to teach online, how to build a website, upload work and videos, and find ways to communicate with students that do not have technology or regular WiFi. There are virtual meetings to attend, and administrative tasks that still have to be handled. Is there time to exercise sometime in the day? I really need to lose a few pounds, and I did sign up for a race later in the year. 

    Working parents have been tasked with a lot right now, and many of us have dug in our heels. We are going to do this. As a teacher, it feels even more poignant, because we will not let our students down. But we are entering new territory, foreign territory, and we need to learn to shift our priorities and re-set our standards. 

    I am now on my fourth week of trying to juggle everything, and have gone through a metamorphosis. It has taken time to understand what my family needs, what my job needs from me, and what I need in order to thrive during this. I needed to get my kids on a schedule, and I use this term very loosely. They know that when they wake up, both parents will be there to help them get through the day. Some days we will be great at multitasking and get school lessons tackled, while others we will be grateful that our boys like books and have fantastic imaginations. They both have journals and sketch pads, which they have made good use of: the 5-year-old draws leaves and birds, while the 8-year-old has started his own superhero comic series. Is that art? It’s creative, whatever it is. 

    My kids are adapting well to the new routine, but there are meltdowns (not always from the kids) for not being able to play with friends, from the new schedule, from me trying to keep the kids from being online and in front of a screen all day, to insisting everyone eats at least half a banana for breakfast and five carrot sticks at lunch.

    In terms of teaching, there are a few new realities that I need to accept:

    • I am not designed to be an online teacher, so I will do my best but there will be other websites or teacher stations that are flashier.

    • Many of my students do not have access to technology, so unless we deliver the assignments on paper, they will not do them.

    • Many of my students have checked out until next fall, and no matter how many ways I try to communicate with them, they are finished for the year.

    • I will have to put myself on mute during conference calls from time to time to deal with temper tantrums.

    The bottom line is that not everything is going to be perfect, and that is going to be all right. We will get through this, and we will be ok.

  • 07 Apr 2020 4:20 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Laura Lewis, ESOL teacher in Albemarle County and VATESOL Secretary.

    Albemarle County Public Schools

    We closed abruptly Friday, March 13th. The principal got on the loudspeaker and told everyone that school was closed for the next two weeks. Our spring break is April 6 to 10.

    By the end of the next week, we had our first Zoom faculty meeting at which our principal shared the county plan: check and connect, a program based out of Wisconsin. Each teacher took their homeroom as their "case load." We contacted each family to check on their status - how were they, did they have enough food, did their student have a charger and school computer, do they have Internet access, etc. We were told that the two weeks leading up to spring break would be a time to post enrichment and review activities that could be downloaded or worked on offline. Some teachers had the foresight to send home packets with students.

    Last week, the Superintendent revealed the instructional support plan for after our spring break. We will have "online" school for 6 weeks from April 13 to May 22. During this time, teachers are to create learning modules and choose two to five key concepts to build these modules around. All work will be pass/fail. The idea is to look at what standards you have covered and what standards you have not covered and then choose two to five of these standards. All work will be posted on Schoology. Content area teachers are to create two hours of instruction per week. This should be reflected in the modules so that students can work at their own pace and schedule to take into consideration family constraints. Exploratory teachers (art, music, drama, technology, Spanish, band) can post one hour of work per week.

    We are now pulling into PLC (professional learning community) groups and using Zoom to meet weekly as a PLC to build these modules in addition to a weekly faculty meeting to check-in. We are responsible for contacting our homeroom families once a week via email, text, or phone call as part of the continuation of the check and connect program.

    What is your district doing to support students, especially English learners, during this unprecedented time? 

    Join us for our weekly VATESOL Town Hall every Wednesday at 3 PM, or email us to be published on our blog.

  • 03 Mar 2020 11:56 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Cammie Wilson, Adult Ed Special Interest Group leader for the VATESOL Board of Directors.

    For me, 2019 was a year of many goodbyes and many endings, some painful, some hopeful, and I welcome 2020 as a year of beginnings, open doors, new paths, and new opportunities.

    Three years ago, when I accepted the position of daytime ESOL instructor, I was hopeful that our program might be able to buck the trend of employing mostly part-time, mostly K-12-certified instructors.The field of Adult ESOL is full of highly-skilled, highly-qualified, passionate, enthusiastic, inadequately-compensated instructors.

    Over the years, I've been told time and time again how lucky I am to have work that I love, for which I have a passion, for which I felt a calling, and from which I have gained deep satisfaction. Unfortunately, as those of you know who have struggled as adjuncts to find enough teaching credits, as part-time employees to rely on a spouse for benefits, as underpaid K-12 teachers who've agreed to teach night classes for additional income... the satisfaction that comes with student success can be overshadowed by growing workloads, income instability, and the general demands of life and family.

    We are good at our jobs, and we deserve to be fairly compensated for our work. We deserve sick time, holidays, and snow days without worrying about how we're going to make up that income because we're in a don't-work-don't-get-paid situation. We deserve opportunities for advancement, professional development, and at the very minimum, cost-of-living pay increases.

    This was the year I realized that my Adult Ed program was in no better situation than others across the state. In December, after a year of watching our program struggle with cuts to local funding, including the reduction of our staff by over 40% and the potential dissolution of the ESOL program entirely, I made the difficult and painful decision to leave my position. I initially balked at the idea of having to leave the field of Adult Education to find a permanent full-time job with benefits, but now I find myself in a position where my schedule and salary allow me the freedom to volunteer with a local literacy organization, keeping me connected to the ELL community and continuing to support adult learners in my region and beyond.

    I am hopeful that in 2020, my colleagues in Adult Ed will be able to find meaning in their work while also being fairly compensated for their time and skill; that the adult ELLs of Virginia will find growing opportunities for education and employment; and that VATESOL can provide additional avenues to connect practitioners and learners across the state.

  • 21 Feb 2020 8:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It's official... 2020 is the Year of VATESOL! With a fully staffed Board of Directors working hard to host the annual SETESOL conference this year, we are so excited to be building our membership base at our state affiliate. Here are a few fun facts about VATESOL!

    Did you know...

    • that our first state affiliate began in 1983 as the Tidewater-Peninsula TESOL affiliate?
    • that our first newsletter was published in 1984, when the organization had 61 members?
    • that our name officially changed to VATESOL in 1997?

    It has been a fun 37 years with you! To celebrate, we are selling VATESOL items - everything from t-shirts and baby onesies to coffee mugs and stickers.

    This is a great opportunity to financially and publicly show your support for us as a non-profit organization. VATESOL will receive about 15% of every sale.

    Share the link and consider purchasing today for a great cause!

  • 18 Feb 2020 11:36 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Tori Pierson, Newsletter Editor for VATESOL and 6th grade ESL teacher and advocate in Richmond Public Schools

    This Sunday, February 16, was “Budget Sunday” at the Virginia General Assembly. Members of the House and Senate gathered to report their proposed amendments to the Governor’s budget for 2020-2022. This year, a group of education advocates attended both the House and Senate hearings wearing red and carrying signs to send a message to legislators: We are here; we are listening; and we are holding you accountable.

    As an ESL teacher, I have always believed that advocacy is an integral part of my work as an educator. I try to stay informed on current policy and be an active member of organizations who are advocating on behalf of our English learners, their families, their communities, and their schools. With that in mind, I have attended several committee meetings during this year’s General Assembly session. Overall, I have learned that we have a hard battle to fight and our English learners need our advocacy now more than ever.

    Education advocates in Virginia rallied fiercely in support of HB1316 and SB728 this year. These were identical bills proposed by Delegate Aird and Senator McClellan to fully fund the Virginia Board of Education’s Standards of Quality. Among many excellent improvements, the bills included smaller student-teacher ratios for English learners based on their English proficiency level. The current ratio is 59:1.

    HB975 also proposed to reduce student-teacher ratios for English learners, but it was cut in the House education committee to only fund a ratio of 50:1. Disappointingly, this is the ratio reflected in both the House and Senate versions of the budget.

    Overall, the proposed budgets from both the House and the Senate provoked disappointment and even anger from education advocates. Teachers are challenging the 2% salary increase, saying that it barely covers inflation. The average teacher's salary in Virginia is about $9,000 lower than the national average, even though Virginia is the 12th wealthiest state in the country. 

    For me, it is both energizing and exhausting to attend these meetings and participate in these organized actions. On the one hand, I have built friendships with so many amazing advocates - teachers, parents, and community members - who are doing great work on behalf of our students. These friendships keep me informed and motivated. On the other hand, it is discouraging to have to rally and fight for our students to have access to a quality educational experience.

    We have so much work left to do, but I am certain that we have a lot of incredible people ready to keep working. As educators, it is imperative that we do our part by staying informed, communicating with our representatives, and never settling for less than excellence for our students.

    I am grateful to VATESOL Advocacy Liaison, Jessica Klein, for publishing informative updates during the General Assembly sessions and throughout the year. I am also grateful to The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis for providing information and analysis in partnership with our advocacy efforts.

    Photo from The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis

  • 01 Feb 2020 7:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This week, several of our VATESOL board members attended the annual Virginia ESL Supervisors’ Association (VESA) conference in Norfolk. We hosted an information table where we registered new members and encouraged presentation proposals for SETESOL 2020. Conferences are a great opportunity to meet and reconnect with professionals in our field, and we were grateful to see so many familiar faces!

    VATESOL President Rebecca Raab connected with one of our members, WendySue Clausson, an ESL teacher at Cooke Elementary School in Virginia Beach. Check out their conversation and join us in congratulating WendySue on her exciting news!

  • 30 Jan 2020 8:59 PM | Anonymous member

    In Japan every January the Grand Sumo Tournament is held. This year's event concluded January 26th with quite the historic underdog story! Wrestler Tokushoryu is the first bottom-ranked sumo wrestler to win a top-division title since March 2000. WOW!

    I was quite excited to be gifted Sumo Joe by Mia WenJen to review for theImage result for sumo joe Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020 event. The easy-to-read book highlights the sport with a clever character face-off: a brother vs. sister martial arts challenge.  One of my newcomer LOVES, I mean is honestly infatuated with Japanese culture, and the illustrations by Nat Iwata allow so many opportunities for learning also.   Sumo Joe would be a perfect choice as part of a quad text set leading up to a target text on martial arts or Japan.  The  rhythmic text structure appeals to new and intermediate readers  along with building vocabulary outside the martial arts theme.  As if that wasn't enough, the illustrated glossary and author's note adds to the uniqueness of Sumo Joe.  Find a quick flip-through of Sumo Joe by clicking the cover image above!

     MCDB 2020 is in its 7th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators.  

    Seven years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues.

    MCBD 2020  is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board

    Super Platinum

    Make A Way Media/ Deirdre “DeeDee” Cummings


    Language Lizard, Pack-N-Go Girls


    Audrey Press, Lerner Publishing Group, KidLit TV, ABDO BOOKS : A Family of Educational Publishers, PragmaticMom & Sumo Jo, Candlewick Press


     Author Charlotte Riggle, Capstone Publishing, Guba Publishing, Melissa Munro Boyd & B is for Breathe


    Author Carole P. Roman, Snowflake Stories/Jill Barletti, Vivian Kirkfield & Making Their Voices Heard. Barnes Brothers Books TimTimTom, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books,  Charlesbridge Publishing, Barefoot BooksTalegari Tales

    Multicultural Children's Book Day Official 2020 Poster

    Author Sponsors, including recent ALA Award winning author Jerry Craft AND creator of MCBD 2020 Official Poster.

    MCBD would like to also give a shout-out to their CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View MCBD CoHosts HERE.

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