Deepening Multilingual Learner Support: All Teachers, Every Lesson, Every Day

By: Alex Horowitz, Chief of Strategy & Growth

Last month we  published a blog post by Senior Director of Programs, Lauren Ellis, discussing our “Just Right Approach” to Multilingual Learner (ML) instruction. Lauren laid out our four-part strategy for supporting all Multilingual Learners in Impact classrooms. Today, we want to share additional insight into our first strategy: strong professional development (PD).

Impact has partnered with City University of Seattle (City U), a local university with a strong teacher-preparation program, to provide ongoing ML PD time to all faculty. This PD is incredibly exciting for two reasons:

  • City U is delivering this PD alongside in-house experts on Impact’s curriculum team to ensure that all strategies are highly applicable across all classrooms and grade levels.
  • All Impact teachers participate in this PD series, which automatically counts toward 25% of a teacher’s endorsement in ML instruction if they choose to continue with City U on their own. This is on top of the 15% discount to City U that all Impact teachers receive.

We had the chance to sit down with Amal Mohamed, Manager of Curriculum at Impact, to hear about Impact’s approach to ML  and what exciting developments we can expect this school year. Amal is co-facilitating the ten-hour PD series with City U faculty. 

Impact: Amal, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. First, can you share a bit about your background? What work were you doing prior to coming to Impact and what do you do on the curriculum team?

Amal Mohammed: I have a ton of experience teaching Multilingual Learners, or, what we used to refer to as English Language Learners. I’ve taught adult refugees and immigrants who needed to further their English skills to seek employment. I’ve taught elementary school with an emphasis on ELL instruction. The thing is, Alex, this work is deeply personal for me. My parents did not speak English as their first language – they spoke Somali, Arabic, and French. I’ve seen how difficult it can be for people, into adulthood, whose first language is not English. And it should not have to be that difficult.

Here at Impact I have the pleasure of working on our curriculum team. I write  project-based learning and enrichment units. And, because of my background and passion for ML instruction, I do a lot of work supporting our teachers in this area.

Impact: Thank you so much for sharing all of this, Amal. You have such a wealth of experience in ML instruction. Let’s talk about your work now in partnership with City U. What’s your role in this ML PD series?

AM: I am working directly with City U to co-present PD to our faculty. And, I’m folding this into Impact’s curriculum. At Impact we provide our teachers with a full curriculum, including lesson plans, for every part of our model. This year, we are adding ML resources to all lesson plans, providing notes and tips to teachers on how to include ML approaches learned in PD  in any given lesson. For example, if a lesson is heavy on new vocabulary, the lesson plan notes will remind teachers to pair pictures with new words so that students have a visual cue. This is tremendously helpful for ML scholars, and, quite frankly, for all scholars.

Impact: If you want an Impact teacher to take away just one thing from this PD series, what would that be?

AM: Our goal is not to throw a million topics at teachers – the last thing we want is information overload. We want teachers to see specific strategies in action, practice these strategies, and make a plan for implementation in the classroom. We are working with teachers on cycles of inquiry. This means that in between PD sessions, teachers will set goals for their scholars, run a series of ML practices, and then come to the next session ready to reflect on what worked and what could be tweaked. We don’t want teachers to just be able to talk about ML strategies, we want them implementing high leverage strategies in the classroom every single day.

Impact: What do you hope the impact of this PD series will be on scholars who are Multilingual Learners?

AM: I want, no wait, I know that the impact will be huge. We know that we already have a strong program for ML scholars – our scores ranked in the top of the state for this group of students last year. And, we can always level up and do more. ML scholars will never be left behind in an Impact classroom. And as far as objective measures go, we want to see every ML scholar grow at least one level on the WIDA English Learner assessment.

Impact: Amal, to all of the teachers out there reading this blog who do not have access to great ML PD – what’s your advice to them as the school year launches?

AM: Run cycles of inquiry in your own class. Jump in and try things. Set a goal, see if it works, and then try something else. Talk to your colleagues to see what they’re doing in their classroom. And remember, so many of the strategies that support ML scholars also support every other child in the room.

We are so excited to see this PD series continue. And, please be sure to follow us on social media for updates on ML strategies in action. 

To all of the teachers out there, best of luck on the school year launch. You are doing incredible work and we appreciate you.