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Stories from the Field

California Casualty Awardees Kinora Hernandez: ELL in the Classroom

Great educators have great stories. This series gives a glimpse of the ideas, practices, and experiences of the recipients of the NEA Foundation’s California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence. Today, we’re sharing the words of Kinora Hernandez, a structured English immersion coach at Kyrene de las Manitas in Tempe, AZ.

As a structured English immersion coach, I have a caseload that takes me to four different elementary schools. Teaching summer school allows me to have my own class, which I really missed after 17 years as a 4th grade teacher.

What I enjoy most is watching the students from countries all over the world come together to communicate and see how alike they all are. We are a large district, but we have a small English language learner (ELL) population, about 10-50 students per school. So it’s likely that our ELL students will be the only one in their classroom.

When the ELL students are in a smaller group, with other students who they know have difficulties understanding and speaking English, they tend to open up easier and feel more comfortable speaking in class. By the end of the third week, I’m able to see how much the students have grown socially and academically. It’s hard to say goodbye at the end of the fourth week!

I have one student at one of my schools who asks me every time she sees me if she can come to summer school again. The other day when I walked into her classroom, she ran up to me and gave me a bear hug because she found out that she was selected to attend again this summer.

Another student who barely spoke at summer school last year talks my ear off whenever I see her. Her teacher says that she can’t stop talking now. There are so many success stories – I’m so happy that I can help with transitioning our ELL students into their new home.

Meet more of the 2018 NEA Foundation awardees hereLearn more about the NEA Foundation’s Awards for Teaching Excellence criteria and nominations process.

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