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Staff Development While You Teach: Collaborating to Serve English Learners

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Abstract

This article examines the nature of a sustained staff development program for teachers serving English learners in elementary schools. It begins by exploring the need for learners to have optimum language and content development, and indicates that many U.S. grade-level and content area teachers have not been prepared to meet that need. Focusing on the experience of one elementary teacher, it then describes the 2-year collaborative team effort within and between four elementary schools that provided for both individual and collective growth as professionals, as well as structure and motivation that would encourage the emergence of successful instructional practices. A key outcome of this model of staff development was the importance and value of treating educators as professionals—respecting their time, energy, need for connections with peers, and willingness to engage in professional growth. Another outcome was the unanimous positive response to staff development that was long term, focused, and sustained. Learning how best to address the needs of second-language learners requires conversation within a school building. The challenge of bringing grade level and content area teachers together with peers to both explore and enhance their practice is substantial.

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