Starside ESL teacher honored
De Soto's English as a Second Language director Debbie Taylor was honored last weekend by other professionals throughout the state.
Robb Scott, board member with the Kansas Association of Teachers of English as a Second Language, announced that Taylor was one of nine honorees selected throughout the state during the organization's conference.
Taylor supervises ESL programs throughout the district and works out of Starside Elementary School. She has been with the De Soto district since 1991. Taylor said language could be a difficult barrier for students.
"Our second language students fall into the at-risk category simply because their native language puts them at-risk," she said.
Taylor said at the state level, Kansas teachers like her are working together through organizations like Kansas Association of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages to determine curriculum standards for teaching English to non-native speakers who are required to take the same assessment tests as all students.
"There never had been ESL standards like there are for math, reading and writing," she said. "Due to changes in No Child Left Behind, we started working on them at least six years ago."
Taylor said working in the De Soto district poses a particular challenge because of the ethnicity differences on both sides. On the De Soto side, Taylor said there are dozens of families whose first language is Spanish. On the western Shawnee side, there are students from China, Korea, Ethiopia, India, Laos and many other countries.
"We have about 12 languages for the De Soto district," she said.
Taylor said at the elementary level, students are in a 'push-in, pull-out' program to get them in the regular classrooms.
"We have two aides fluent in Spanish, so we do have some native language support through our aides," she said. "The students are in a regular classroom and we pull them out for programs and small groups."
At the high school and middle school level, students have English as a Second Language as a separate class during their regular block scheduling.
Taylor said the district is attempting to educate as many teachers as possible in foreign languages. She said they're encouraging teachers who go back to school regularly for recertification to take classes for teaching English as a Second Language. Teachers can even get certified specifically as ESL instructors.
"We had a grant -- unfortunately its no longer being funded -- that paid for part of that education," Taylor said. "At this point, we have a plan that could reimburse teachers for a certain number of ESL classes a year."
With growth in the district, Taylor said the ESL program has experienced a 900 percent increase over the last 10 years. Across Kansas, the growth of non-native speaking students is smaller -- about 300 percent.
"When I started here seven years ago, we were 30 students," she said.
Taylor said growth of non-native speaking students in the city of De Soto has leveled off in recent years.
"Now we have 17 preschoolers who will be ESL kindergartners next year," she said. "It's one of our largest classrooms coming in."