Overcoming Barriers to English Language Learning and Academic Achievement
by William Jackson, edited by Kisha Bryan
The teaching ability of educators passionate in the
instruction of the English language is highlighted by
the successes of those of other languages adapting to
the complexities of a language that seems easily adaptable,
only to find out that language is a barrier.
Language learning is probably one of the most difficult
skills to master. It is compounded by the simultaneous learning of academic
content. It is through the English language that Florida’s over 200,000 ELLs
must achieve mastery of the academic standards as outlined by the
Florida Department of Education. In addition, there are a large number of
English Language Institutes (ELIs) and community colleges that prepare
students to meet the challenges of a higher education curriculum.
Compounded by the idea that the English language is one of the most complex
languages in the world to master, passionate educators have shown that
language is a barrier to learning, TESOL teacher’s goal is to work to decrease
those barriers to learning.
The 33rd Annual Sunshine State TESOL Conference was held May 12-13th
in Jacksonville, Florida. This year’s theme: Building Bridges: Connecting
Theory and Practice. The conference was recognized by John Peyton,
Mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, Mr. Ed Pratt-Dannals Superintendent of
Duval County Public Schools, Pat Willis, Deputy Superintendent, Cathy LeRoy,
Chief Officer of Academic Services and Brenda Trimble, ESOL Supervisor.
SSTESOL conference in Jacksonville, Florida represented teachers that are
dedicated to facilitating instruction to those of other cultures striving to
merge themselves into American society. The first step to accommodation
is through mastering the language, in this case developing the English language
into an instructional component so that those of ESOL
(English Speakers of Other Languages) can learn, comprehend and apply their
new language skill sets. No other language is as unique and embedded with
linguistic overtones, vocalized nuances and implied vocabulary that may
represent several definitions that invoke different responses. Learning English
is more than learning the pronunciation and definition of words, phases, and
forming of paragraphs from sentence structures. There is the incorporation
of multifaceted words in conversational models with clarity and comprehension.
Sunshine State Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages has been
in existence since 1975, but under the origins to a four state group: Alabama,
Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida TESOL (tesol.org). There were various
modifications, growth stages and adaptations until what is known now as
SSTESOL was formalized. The mission of the Sunshine State Teachers of English
to Speakers of Other Languages (SSTESOL) is to provide educators access to
professional development, educational and instructional resources, personal
interaction with professional teachers, and to provide leadership and advocacy
in language policy issues.
The championing of these essential elements can be seen on a national and
international level where teachers nationally have contact with educators
with international experience and backgrounds.
It is not uncommon for teachers located in educational institutions here in
the United States to share instructional models, best practices and ritual and
routines from the elementary to higher education with teachers from other
parts of the world. Through the use of education, this builds the capabilities
and abilities of those who come to this county. They have dreams of improving
their live, but need the power of education to make their dreams come true;
applied to dream building stated by Wendell L. Wilkie, “I believe in America
because we have great dreams – and because we have the opportunity to make
those dreams come true.” This politically correct statement shows that those
with dreams can achieve those dreams no matter the challenges. The educational
resources are available to help them grow, but the professionalism and knowledge
of educators is a requirement.
The strength of SSTESOL organization is the understanding of a unification and
solidarity to the importance of teaching English to those who have a relationship
with the United States of America. Through solidarity the development of a
strategic forward plan to provide the best instructional practices that service
TESOL students. Organizational development, professional development, and
advocacy were identified as three key planning areas. Currently, SSTESOL
has eight active chapters, and membership is generally between 750-800 members.
The conference hosted this year in Jacksonville, Florida had presenters with
national and international experience. The Keynote Speaker Dr. Keith Folse
whose plenary was entitled, “A New Direction in Working with Native Speakers”
is professor of TESOL at the University of Central Florida. He is the author of the
successful GREATs writing series by Cengage and has taught all skill areas in the
US and abroad for many years. Other notable speakers were; Staci Johnson ESOL
educator and co-author of three (3) books, Rob Jenkins of Santa Ana College’s
Centennial Education Center and Hiram Ruiz, Director of Refugee Services in the
Florida Department of Children and Families.
Attending this conference for the first time permitted me to gain an admiration
and respect for my colleagues in a discipline that has international impact. More
countries world wide are transitioning through economic, political, social and
cultural changes. The United States is seen globally as a haven, providing
opportunities to improve the lives of those who seek educational growth, economic
opportunity, freedom of speech and empowerment to take back to their native
lands and help develop opportunities for their native communities. There are
those that are escaping the reality of war, famine, political and economic
unrest. In order to survive and thrive in the United States the first step is to
learn English. This is where the value of a trained and empowered ESOL educator
is invaluable for school districts, community colleges, colleges and universities.
Technology integration was also demonstrated by the vast online resources
available to teachers. Supporting of the technology demonstrations was
Sean Jackson (FAMU) and Kelly Hernandez from Miami Dade College, worked to
make sure the technical equipment for PowerPoint, Internet and audio was working
properly for the international and American presenters. Thank you to all the coordinators
and volunteers who worked to make this a successful conference and student entertainers
from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, and the NEF (Northeast Florida TESOL).
As has been stated by Adlai Stevenson, “America is much more than a geographical
fact. It is a political and moral fact – the first community in which men set out in
principle to institutionalize freedom, responsible government, and human equality.”
This can be applied concerning the importance of TESOL teachers here in the
United States. The United States has embraced and set policy to provide educational
services to ESOL students to help them in their quest to improve their lives and the
lives of their families through educational enrichment and empowerment.
Congratulations to the 2011 President’s Award Co-Recipients – Brenda Trimble,
Supervisor of ESOL for DuvalCountyPublic Schoolsand Philip Kellerman,
established the Harvest of Hope Foundation.
More information about the conference can be found at:
To gain more information access the links below:
Web site: www. sstesol.org/
TESOL Advocacy Day
Don’t forget TESOL Advocacy Day 2011 – June 6th and 7th http://sstesol.org/?p=817
President 2010-2011: Nora Dawkins
Immediate Past President 2010-2011: Cynthia Schuemann
1st Vice President 2010-2011: Patricia Grant
2nd Vice President 2010-2011: Kisha Bryan
Treasurer 2010-2013: James May
Secretary 2010-2012: Betty Green