At KIPP Newark, my role as a Multilingual Learner (ML) teacher and leader isn't just about language instruction; it's about creating meaningful connections for students and families that transcend borders and cultures. Our team is finding new ways each year to celebrate diversity and engage families in Newark as they navigate the challenges of adapting to what is often a new country, culture, and city.

Learning English as a second language is challenging and one barrier to success for students in the classroom can be writing skills. When I learned through a family connection that Dream Children’s Home in Uganda would be open to a pen-pal exchange with our school, students responded with enthusiasm, drafting letters in English asking children about their lives and introducing themselves. Six weeks later, their pen pals responded, and there was so much excitement at SPARK when their letters arrived from Uganda! This exchange hones student writing while connecting students across continents. 

Beyond language practice, writing these letters fosters empathy and global awareness for students; plus, it brought me back to my childhood, where letter-writing was a cherished way to keep in touch with friends and family. 

Another major project this year reflects our belief that family engagement goes hand in hand with student wellbeing and academic progress. This year, the team joined forces with Spanish teacher Juan Morales at KIPP Newark Lab High School to offer evening English classes for families on campus at SPARK. These classes provide a welcoming space for family members to learn English and build community while their children receive homework support and engage in supervised activities like movies or games in the gym. The classes have been a hit with families, and now we have a consistent group of pupils who join us each week. When families learned that one class would take place on Mr. Morales’ birthday, they decorated the classroom and celebrated with him! 

There are more activities on deck for the spring. We're gearing up to host a Pulsera Project fundraiser in partnership with our ESL curriculum provider, Vista Higher Learning. The Pulsera Project connects Guatemalan and Nicaraguan artisans with students in U.S. schools through the sale of colorful handwoven bracelets called pulseras. Beyond raising funds, this project aims to empower students to take ownership of cultural initiatives and deepen their connection to Latin American heritage.

A passion for language, culture, and community has guided my journey as an ESL educator. Every day, I'm reminded of the importance of building bridges, fostering understanding, and shaping the future of our students—one connection at a time.

KIPP Newark's ML team serves 250+ multilingual learners in Newark (and counting!). The team is led by SPARK ML teacher Megan Englander. Other team members include Ana Schettini (KIPP NCA & Rise), Sandra Washington-Gayles (BOLD & THRIVE), Chelsea Appiah Kubi (SPARK & KURA), Nicole Lastra (KURA & Purpose), Dagersy Cedano (SPARK, Justice, & KURA), and Jasmine Dupree (Life, Seek, and TEAM). KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy Spanish teacher David Monk and KIPP Newark Lab High School Spanish teacher Juan Morales both support multilingual learners at their respective schools.

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