As dual language immersion spreads across the country, so too have the sources of our nominations for the Dual Language Teacher of the Month Award. This is a true reflection of the growth in opportunities for educators seeking to help students grow in dual language immersion programs.
We are honored to recognize Jen Temple of Bear Creek Elementary School in Bend, Oregon as the Dual Language Teacher of the Month for March 2017. She was nominated by Kinsey Martin, the Dual Immersion Program Coordinator of Bend-La Pine Schools. Kinsey Martin’s words not only reflected Jen’s commitment to family partnerships and professional development, she also helped clarify what expectations of dual language schools when they seek educators.
Here are some great insights from Dual Immersion Program Coordinator Kinsey Martin on the ways Dual Language Teacher of the Month Jen Temple goes above and beyond expectations of her teachers:
What are optimal traits that you seek in dual language teachers?
We seek teachers who have a passion for language and literacy, who have a heart for equity and advocacy, who value family partnerships and cultural diversity, and who are collaborative, positive and proactive.
How does Jen fit into or outshine this mold?
Jen embodies all of the above! She has a genuine empathy for each student, parent and colleague with whom she interacts, and she proactively develops strong relationships with each member of our dual language community. She strengthens our program one partnership at a time. Jen is a kind and caring colleague, and comes to work each day with a positive attitude. She constantly seeks out new strategies and professional development opportunities, and is always adjusting and refining her classroom practice accordingly–her pedagogy is defined by rigor, innovation, reflection and heart.
Her pedagogy is defined by rigor, innovation, reflection and heart.
Why do you think Jen creates and fosters relationships with students and families?
I believe Jen fosters strong relationships with families because she genuinely cares about each child and family. Her students matter to her as individual human beings and I believe her deep commitment to each student’s personal and academic growth enables her to create such impactful relationships.
What opportunities has Jen created for families to support their children’s education?
Jen is a key player in helping develop each program Parent Night and helps ensure that those events are family-centered and impactful–this is work she dedicates on her own time. Beyond special events, Jen reaches out to families and invites them into her room to participate authentically in the day-to-day learning process. She organizes social events for her classroom community and helps connect families from different backgrounds who otherwise would not interact with one another or with the school community.
Jen reaches out to families and invites them into her room to participate authentically in the day-to-day learning process.
What shining example of professional development has Jen sought out and implemented in her classroom?
Jen had the opportunity in a previous district to participate in some Literacy Squared research and professional development. When she moved to our district, she did not leave those practices behind, even though they were not required in our program. Rather, she has been reflective, creative, collaborative and proactive in adapting those highly-effective strategies to our program model and to her classroom design. As a result, her biliteracy instruction is rigorous and responsive to student needs, and incorporates a strong focus on language development and cultural competence. Other teachers in our program have benefitted from Jen’s work in this area.
Her biliteracy instruction is rigorous and responsive to student needs, and incorporates a strong focus on language development and cultural competence.
Continue reading to learn about Jen Temple’s perspective of her role as an educator in a dual language immersion setting.
Now let’s focus on Jen Temple, recipient of the Dual Language Teacher of the Month Award, whose passionate energy jumps from the words on the screen into the hearts of readers with every ounce of enthusiasm for empowering students and families in her district:
What are some interesting things about dual language immersion in Oregon that you’d like to share?
The growth and development of dual language Immersion programs are on the rise in Oregon. As the state becomes more diverse, biliteracy programs become more valuable. Most programs are in such high demand that seats are assigned and become available only by lottery. Oregon has a number of dual language immersion schools, offering biliteracy programs in Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Spanish throughout the state. Of the nearly 580,000 students enrolled in Oregon schools, K-12, last year, 23% are Hispanic/Latino families. I think the challenges for dual language immersion programs in Oregon are similar those in other states. The demand for authentic Spanish materials and curriculum can prove to be difficult, however, access to these resources is becoming more readily available. The search for qualified bilingual teachers is another obstacle. Universities in Oregon have been investing in D.I. students to encourage a career in dual language immersion education.
The growth and development of dual language Immersion programs are on the rise in Oregon. As the state becomes more diverse, biliteracy programs become more valuable.
How did you arrive at Bend-La Pine Schools?
I am from Bend and am a product of the Bend-La Pine School District, from elementary to high school graduation. I studied at Oregon State University, where I received a Bachelor of General Science and Mathematics with a minor in Spanish, and then continued there to earn my Master of Arts in Teaching. I first taught in Salem, Oregon in a bilingual program for six years. The idea of moving back to Bend and being closer to family had always been on my mind. However, I struggled with the thought of moving away from a school that offered bilingual education. So, I was very excited when Bend-La Pine schools began implementing a dual language immersion program at Bear Creek Elementary! I am proud to be a teacher in the Bend-La Pine School District, giving back to the community that gave me so much.
I am proud to be a teacher in the Bend-La Pine School District, giving back to the community that gave me so much.
What makes dual language immersion stand out at your school?
The dual language immersion program at Bear Creek is unique in that it is the only elementary school in the district to have such a program. Our school and the dual language immersion program provide a welcoming place for both Spanish and English speaking students and their families, where we place a special emphasis on sharing and celebrating one another’s cultures.
Our dual immersion program is relatively new and our district was very excited to roll out our Dual Language Immersion Middle School program this year. The first cohort of students is in the middle of their 6th grade year. Our program honors and recognizes the Seal of Biliteracy. We encourage students to strive for and earn the bronze, silver, and gold medals to symbolize mastery towards biliteracy.
Our program honors and recognizes the Seal of Biliteracy. We encourage students to strive for and earn the bronze, silver, and gold medals to symbolize mastery towards biliteracy.
In addition to the content, I try to place a large focus on guiding the students in becoming powerful and empathetic members of their communities.
What is your favorite part of being a teacher?
My favorite part of being a teacher is the daily interaction with my students. I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to guide the students in meaningful conversations in English and in Spanish about things that are important to them. The revelations they unwrap can be so inspiring! In addition to the content, I try to place a large focus on guiding the students in becoming powerful and empathetic members of their communities. One of my favorite examples of this is when students help each other learn and compliment one another when a job is well done. I believe in my students; to have so much time with all thirty of them in so many small moments, moments that might contribute to parts of who they may become, is an honor I take seriously.
What was your biggest influence in becoming an educator?
The biggest influence in my decision to become a teacher probably stems from growing up as the oldest child in my family and accepting the responsibility in guiding my four younger siblings. I have always cherished that position. Seeing them succeed was inspiring and made me proud. Since my first days as a student teacher, I have felt many parallels in the teaching world.
What does biliteracy mean to you?
Biliteracy, to me, is more than just developing the ability to read and write in two languages. Biliteracy is a tool for understanding another language; understanding another culture; understanding another person. It is incredibly valuable! Becoming biliterate is the opportunity to communicate with others, which can grow into an invitation to experience another culture. I think it can also mean a responsibility to assist or guide others toward access to language and culture.
I think [becoming biliterate] can also mean a responsibility to assist or guide others toward access to language and culture.
How have you helped your students understand the value of biliteracy?
There are countless times, in my own life, that being biliterate has made a huge impact. Sharing these experiences with my students is the most meaningful way I can relay the value of speaking, reading and writing in two languages. Students hear first-hand stories about how being biliterate has paved the way for many opportunities, such as college choices, career options and advantages while traveling. And how being biliterate has meant stepping out of the comfort zone to assist others or to seek assistance. My students know that everyday they are gaining confidence to use their second language in more public, less structured settings. They have also recognized that their journey towards biliteracy is influencing their parents, family members and friends to learn another language; they feel empowered to pass this on!
They have also recognized that their journey towards biliteracy is influencing their parents, family members and friends to learn another language; they feel empowered to pass this on!
Which three words would you use to describe your students?
My students are curious and eager to learn new things; they are held to a high standard and they rise to the occasion. They are empathetic, compassionate and can reason with others, even in difficult situations. We have a lot of fun in class because my students are honest, but respectful, and incredibly funny.
Have you been involved in any research? If so, what was the premise and what did you conclude?
During my time teaching in Salem, I was so fortunate to be involved with administering the Literacy Squared Biliteracy Model. My colleagues and I applied Literacy Squared strategies and practices, collected data, then contributed to analysis of this data to determine its effectiveness. I learned many strategies that provide excellent opportunities for teachers to highlight and for students to identify cross language connections.
While administering Dictado in my classroom, I have seen my students make improvements throughout the week in Dictado practice, but more importantly, they are able to make lasting connections in their own writing.
Some of the components of the Literacy Squared model I spent significant time researching included Dictado, which is a technique used to foster writing, spelling, vocabulary and grammar instruction in both languages while analyzing meaningful and connected texts. Because both the writing selection and the context is connected across content areas, students are able to acquire specific skills, pre-identified by the teacher and apply them in their own writing. While administering Dictado in my classroom, I have seen my students make improvements throughout the week in Dictado practice, but more importantly, they are able to make lasting connections in their own writing.
I was also able to perform research using the Lotta Lara reading strategy, which is intended to develop both comprehension and fluency in reading. Lotta Lara is an incredible tool for both English and Spanish reading development. Again, choosing a meaningful and familiar text is very important so that students are focused on the goal of reading for comprehension and fluency. Throughout the week, students are reading the same text three times using echo, choral and partner read. Hearing the students become familiar with a text, adding expression and making their own connections proves the effectiveness of this strategy.
Hearing the students become familiar with a text, adding expression and making their own connections proves the effectiveness of [the Lotta Lara] strategy.
Finally, two years ago I traveled to Puebla, Mexico to tour and observe elementary classrooms there. We were able to witness students and teachers utilizing a variety of literacy strategies in an authentic Spanish language setting. Seeing these efforts yield such effective results for their students continues to influence my teaching today.
What from your research propels the goal of implementing a 50/50 model by 5th grade?
The skills and strategies for both Spanish and English literacy supported by dual immersion programs are actually fairly universal. So, I can trust that students having received a majority of their dual language immersion primary experience in Spanish, have been given tools and strategies that will allow them to access 50/50 instruction throughout their intermediate elementary years. Teachers and students alike rely on cross-language connections and we encourage our students to tap into that. Integrated base knowledge in both languages build upon each other. By 5th grade, students exhibit fluency in both languages, which is years in the making. Discovering new cognates, developing both academic and social vocabulary, dissecting and analyzing rigorous texts, requesting challenging book recommendations, and participating in compelling conversations and debates are just some of the tasks fifth graders come ready to do in both English and Spanish every day!
What kind of impact do you hope to have on your students?
I hope my students know that they are important, their families are important and their stories are important. And how that is true for everyone; everyone has a story to tell. It is so important to share with and listen to one another. When that is established, there are powerful connections made and our community extends far beyond the walls of our classroom. This is a big reason why I teach and I hope that by setting that example for them, they learn to value education, cultural diversity, humor, differences, kindness and respect.
I hope my students know that they are important, their families are important and their stories are important. And how that is true for everyone; everyone has a story to tell.
What kind of impact do you see your students having on the world?
My students will respect others. They will be proud of their accomplishments but more importantly they will be proud of who they are, where and who they come from as well as the person they have become. They will say ‘Thank you’ and ‘Gracias’ and they will continue to give compliments to others. They will know that their words and their actions are powerful, and that with power comes great responsibility. They will stand up for what is right, even when that is not easy. My students will be diligent, they will persevere. They will walk confidently towards their potential. They will help others recognize their potential. They will commit to a lifetime of learning new and amazing things. They will make people laugh and will laugh with others. My students will talk to their neighbors and will be active members of their communities. They will share their culture with others and will be curious to experience another’s culture. My students will advocate for multilingual education and multicultural communities. My students will do their best, be their best, and give their best in everything they pursue. And my students will know that when they do these things their teacher, Maestra Temple, will be very proud of them!
They will stand up for what is right, even when that is not easy. My students will be diligent, they will persevere. My students will advocate will advocate for multilingual education and multicultural communities.