Stephen Atwood is an ELL teacher at Portland High School in Portland, Maine. Atwood was inspired to get his ESL certification because of a desire to have the skills and backg...
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Stephen Atwood is an ELL teacher at Portland High School in Portland, Maine. Atwood was inspired to get his ESL certification because of a desire to have the skills and background necessary to meet the needs of his culturally and linguistically diverse students. “Portland public schools recognized that we were serving more and more of these students, and created a cohort of mainstream teachers taking the university courses required for certification to teach ESL,” he explains. He signed up for the cohort, transferred to a more urban school, and found himself looking forward to working with the students on a daily basis and learning from their experiences.
Atwood says he’s consistently impressed with how well a supportive classroom environment emerges with students who have such varied experience, education, and language proficiency. Some of his students have had very little formal schooling and are essentially illiterate. Then there are those students who are fully literate in their native tongues but are learning English for the first time.
“A school like Portland High makes apparent the benefits of studying and working in a welcoming and diverse community. Students from different linguistic, ethnic, cultural, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds interact daily, and this can broaden the perspective and experience of all students.”
Although a large part of Atwood’s job is to help the students learn the language, skills, and cultural assumptions that will help them navigate American society, he strives to emphasize that they are learning these things to supplement what they already know.
“It is important for my students to learn how to be successful in America, but I hope that they take seriously the importance of maintaining their cultural ties and traditions, as well.”
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