Principal’s Corner: Welcoming multilingual learners

Published 10:00 pm Friday, September 13, 2019

Principal’s Corner by Tonya Franks

Tonya Franks


When we send our children off to start a new school year each fall, we desire for them to learn and be successful. Many parents are thinking about reading, writing, math or science, or maybe you are a parent who thinks about the social, emotional aspects of school. What if you were the parent who thought about all of these very important components of school, but also the fact that your child is an English language learner.   

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Albert Lea Area Schools has seen an increase in enrollment for multilingual learners. Karen, a Burmese language, is our fastest-growing demographic, while Spanish speakers remain a consistent presence as well. At Halverson, we are serving 75 English language learner students. This is 10 more students than we served last school year. It is a challenge we willingly embrace as we strive to meet the needs of these unique learners. Multilingual learners are celebrated in our schools and strategies are implemented to promote learning. Strategies we are implementing this year include, but are not limited to:

• Clustering students with common language peers

• Providing instructional time with an EL teacher

• “Talk Read Talk Write,” an instructional strategy that helps students develop literacy skills that engage students in structured conversation, active reading and high quality writing

• Graphic organizers

• Multi-language learner profiles promote knowing our students and how they learn best

While we focus so heavily on students, we also need to think about what do we as an educational system to provide support for our families and parents so they are able to successfully support their child and the school. In response to this need, schools host a parent information night. On Wednesday, Halverson Elementary hosted an event for our multilingual-speaking families. It is important for schools to clearly communicate with families in their first language. The event was facilitated by Halverson’s success coaches Johanna Reyes and Kmwe Win and included presentations by the school principal, school counselor and an EL teacher. Topics covered were:

• Attendance

• Health office information (illness and medication protocol)

• Services available during the school day

• After-school opportunities

• eLearning

• Dental health clinic

• Food for Backpacks

• Lunch accounts and educational benefits forms

• Parent-teacher conferences

Halverson Elementary appreciated the opportunity to spend time with our families and we look forward to a successful year of helping our students learn and grow.

Tonya Franks is the principal at Halverson Elementary School.