ADSB’s Growing Multilingual Language Learners

Algoma District School Board (ADSB) continues to see a significant increase in the number of Multilingual Language Learners (MLL) registered with the Board. In August and September of this year, ADSB welcomed sixty-one MLL students into our schools and new families are being registered weekly. ADSB Trustees recently learned more about the shift in supports that are in place for these students from Megan Turner McMillan, the Board’s K-12 MLL Coordinator. Three teachers also shared some of their own learning as they have taken on the new role of MLL Lead teachers in their schools – Karen Christenson from Isabel Fletcher PS, Monica Tessier from Queen Elizabeth PS and Lauri Monto from Kiwedin PS.

ADSB currently has over 300 Multilingual Language Learners enrolled in our schools, from Kindergarten to Grade 12. These students attend schools throughout the district including Sault Ste Marie, Central Algoma and schools in the East and North regions of the Board. Our newest students, registered this fall, are from 20 countries, speak 20 different languages and are registered in 20 of our schools. Given the ongoing increase in enrolment, ADSB has adjusted the way we support our MLL students. Previously, an Elementary Itinerant teacher was incorporated, a role which Megan held and where she gained experience prior to taking on the role of MLL Coordinator. Itinerant teachers were scheduled to visit schools based on student need. At that time, there were significantly fewer MLL students in our system, concentrated at a smaller number of schools. Over time, as numbers grew, ADSB saw the need for building capacity within our schools. Challenges arose with the Itinerant model, including the ability to respond to needs in a timely manner, the amount of time that passed between visits and the challenge of providing support that would transform into lasting change. These factors led to the Board rethinking the model for providing MLL supports.

Superior Heights is hosting their 2nd Annual International Festival on November 30 from 5-8pm at the school.  This is a celebration of diversity and inclusivity and many of ADSB’s Multilingual Language Learners and their families will be in attendance as they were last year.  Last year dozens of countries were represented, as they will be again this year, including Mexico, Ukraine and the Philippines, to name a few.

New this year, we have identified six elementary schools that have a significant number of MLL students and each of those schools have identified a teacher to be their MLL Lead. All the Leads are classroom teachers, with a portion of their day being assigned to MLL work. This new model allows the Board to build capacity within schools and emphasizes the shared responsibility that educators have for the well-being and achievement of Multilingual Language Learners. In addition, we continue to have one full-day program at Parkland Public School for students in grades 5-8 with significant interruptions or limited prior schooling. ADSB also continues to offer English Second Language (ESL) and English Literacy Development (ELD) credits in secondary and Instructional Support for other credits.

MLL Lead teachers shared that the shift in the approach to MLL support in elementary schools has allowed them to respond to needs in a timely manner during day-to-day activities. For instance, MLL Leads facilitate communication between teachers, coaches, and families. One young MLL student was very excited to have made her school’s cross country team and would be competing at the annual event at Hiawatha Highlands. She shared that she was excited to “run through the trees” and staff took a little time to ensure that she understood that she would be running on a designated trail, not just running “across the country and through the trees”.

The student had a wonderful time taking part in the race and her family were so proud to be there to watch her cross the finish line.

As is the case with any student, learning how to pronounce a first or family name correctly is so important. One MLL Lead shared that, during a curriculum night, she listened closely to how a father said his daughter’s name. The teacher realized that she had been mispronouncing the student’s name. In hearing it from the father she was able to say it correctly, and the young student’s eyes lit up. Similarly, a student whose classmates had shortened his name into a nick name that he did not enjoy, was able to approach his teacher with his concern, knowing that he had a caring adult he could talk to. The teacher and the MLL Lead were able to work together, helping classmates learn how to pronounce the name correctly and reminding all of the importance of saying a student’s name correctly.

Over time ADSB has registered 300+ students from countries including Ukraine, Syria, the hilippines, India, Mexico, Afghanistan, Japan, Columbia, Honduras, Russia and the United States. MLL students are arriving for a variety of reasons including accompanying parents who are studying at Sault College or Algoma University, parents who are here with work permits, and/or resettlement of families from war torn regions of the world. These families and students come from diverse cultures, backgrounds and school experiences, with a wide variety of strengths and needs. The support provided from ADSB schools and community partners is imperative.

Algoma District School Board strives to provide learning environments that welcome all cultures
and languages and to provide students whose first language is a language other than English with the programs and supports that will ensure their success at all levels of education. MLL Lead teachers shared how they see the eyes of their students light up when they are encouraged to share their language and culture within their schools. Teachers shared that this has been inspiring and uplifting for everyone involved.

In this spirit, the community is invited to join Superior Heights C&VS on November 30th for the
Superior Heights International Festival. The event takes place from 5-8pm at the school. Admission is by donation with proceeds going to The Soup Kitchen. This is the second annual event at Superior Heights and will be an evening to celebrate cultures, diversity and inclusivity through music, dance and food. White Pines C&VS will be hosting a similar event in the spring.

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