Shelly Spiegel-Coleman & and Her Powerful Impact in Making America Bilingual

Shelly Spiegel-Coleman reigns as a prominent leader in the dual language field. From her very first teaching experience to holding an executive position in Californians Together, she has climbed up the ladder to help impact and make changes in the lives of many dual language students. Under her fervent eye, she has helped over six schools implement bilingual programs and has played an active role in the forming of the Seal of Biliteracy. This is her story.

Shelley Spiegel-Coleman took her first teaching job with one of the first ever-bilingual programs for the El Rancho School District in Pico Rivera, California, during the late sixties. Despite not knowing what to expect, she went in with an open mind, ready to tackle any hurdle that may come her way. The program was small, with only two full-time teachers and one full-time aide running everything. With only three staff members, they were diligent in their work, knowing how arduous the task of implementing and running a successful dual language program would be. Hoping to secure the success of the program, they dedicated their time outside the classroom to ensure the curriculum and program was going as planned. It was evident from her first days of teaching that Spiegel-Coleman was dedicated to helping those in the bilingual world.

After her time with the El Rancho School District came to an end, she moved to Delano, California. Once again, she spent full days dedicating herself to the school to help students excel in the dual language field.

When Spiegel-Coleman came back to Southern California, she worked as a district specialist for the Alhambra School District. There, she was entrusted to help create and kick-start the bilingual programs. Aside from working to ensure the success of the program, she worked with English language development. From here, Spiegel-Coleman moved to work for the Los Angeles County Office of Education; she was the lead consultant for the multilingual academic support unit. She helped provide technical assistance, support training and professional development for teachers, administrators, and specialists across the country.

Through her work in Alhambra and Los Angeles, she was able to partake in the starting and making of six dual language programs throughout various schools. These programs helped hundreds of students start their path towards biliteracy. The impact she left on the students was remarkable and noted by many. The experience she gained and her commitment she offered would only help her for future endeavors.

Continue to the next page to learn more about Shelly Spiegel-Coleman and her powerful impact …

After retiring from this job, Spiegel-Coleman knew she still wanted to be involved within the dual language community. Her passion for the dual language field lead her to realize everything she could do for biliterate students; as a result, she became the Executive Director of Californians Together.

Californians Together is a coalition that unifies under the purpose of focusing on improving policy and practice for the state of California.

Every fall a representative from each organization meets to draw attention to what is happening across the state for English learners. After analyzing everything they develop their goals and plan their strategy for the upcoming year.

The work that Californians Together has completed thus far is remarkable. For example, they addressed the underlying issue dealing with how most English learners are long-term English learners. Due to their impeccable research, the long-term English learners soon became a focus, not only in California but also across the entire country. As a result, these students are given all the necessary resources and attention needed to succeed.

Californians Together wants people to look at the students in their language capacity as assets providing true talent and contributions to the society.

Through this mission, the Seal of Biliteracy was born. The Seal of Biliteracy has played such an important role today that it is no surprise that it gains more attraction every year; today, over 31 states have the Seal of Biliteracy. Despite the Seal of Biliteracy being a small recognition, it carries with it a large significance for the recipients.

Continue to the next page to learn more about Shelly Spiegel-Coleman and her powerful impact …

Spiegel-Coleman has had the amazing opportunity to see the benefits of a bilingual education not only academically but also in her personal life. Her kids all went through dual immersion programs, and as a result, her granddaughter is being raised bilingually.

Speigel-Coleman’s immersion into the Latino community leaves her as an ally who Latinos feel comfortable approaching.

For example, a concerned mother called her once, worried that her son missed the deadline to request a Seal of Biliteracy and would not receive the award. Spiegel-Coleman knows how imperative this award is to the Latino community, and she single-handedly helped this mother and son get him the award.

With the new administration in office today, Speigel-Coleman sees how it has affected the students in the dual immersion programs. She believes that these programs are especially pertinent now more than ever; bilingual programs help students grow not only academically but personally. It provides students with the opportunities to honor language and differences and allows them to be engaged with communities outside of their own.

Dual language classrooms are unmatched to any other kind, as you have two populations – native and non-native speakers – working to help and support one another in a supportive environment. This type of environment is needed for Latino students to feel safe and in a more comfortable position given the recent political events.

Spiegel-Coleman’s main piece of advice is that no matter your gender, if you have a role in a student’s education and you want to do right for your students, you must be an activist. Spiegel-Coleman serves as an inspirational story, as she has not only witnessed the growth of dual language programs, but has helped foster this growth, changing the lives of many.

Shelly Spiegel-Coleman
Author: Shelly Spiegel-Coleman

Shelly Spiegel-Coleman is the Executive Director of Californians Together, a coalition of 23 statewide professional, parent and civil rights organizations focused on improving schooling for English learners. She served on Superintendent Tom Torlakson's Transition Team. Shelly was the Senior Project Director for the Multilingual Academic Support unit for the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE). She also worked as an English Language Development Consultant, Coordinator for the Bilingual Teacher Training Program and Title VII Developmental Two-Way Immersion Director for LACOE. She served as a member of the English Learner Advisory Committee to the California State Board of Education. She also served as a member of the Public School Accountability Act Advisory Committee, English Language Development Standards Project and the California Curriculum and Supplemental Materials Commission. She was a teacher, principal, and district specialist. Shelly received her Masters in Education with an emphasis in Bilingual Education from Whittier College, credential from UCLA and undergraduate work at California State University at Northridge.

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