Moving Forward: First ExcEL Design Studio

One of the hardest challenges educators may face is the diversity of students that come in and out of their classrooms. Teaching techniques are not one size fits all, a tactic may work for one student but may not resonate with another. In the quest to find new approaches to better serve their students, educators from New York and Connecticut joined the ExcEL Leadership Academy for their first Design Studio. The conference gave insight into programs offered by Sleepy Hollow High School that are specifically geared towards their ELL student population.

Sleepy Hollow High School history teacher Carlos Matute presented the mentoring program he founded in the school for ELL students. Matute’s program gives English learners struggling to acclimate to the American high school setting a safe space where they can feel comfortable sharing problems they are facing. Matute has seen great academic success in his students just from being able to provide them with a support system in school. Matute’s dedication to his students exemplifies the large impact educators can have on the lives of their students. Omar Perez, an administrator at Middletown High School in New York valued the experience and the opportunity to hear program ideas that are being implemented for ELs in other schools. “We are looking for more creative ways to target this population [ELs] because it is a growing number and at this point it is a majority in our school. I think they’re being underserved not because of a lack of attention but because of a lack of direction and what I learned through what the school here is doing and the program itself, we definitely want to take it back.”

Another program that was given the spotlight during the Design Studio was the ENL Ambassador program at Sleepy Hollow High School. The Ambassador program offers students with an English learning a resource to help them navigate the American high school setting. The ENL Ambassador club provides a support system to tackle challenges many new students face such as opening lockers, finding classes and where to eat lunch. The program aims to make Sleepy Hollow High School an inviting place for students who are new to the country by teaming them up with student ambassadors who faced similar challenges. Victoria White of Shelton Public Schools in Connecticut described the importance of attending events like the Design Studio and hearing about programs schools already have in place for EL students. “Any time there is an opportunity to meet with other schools, districts and educators about what they’re doing centered around similar initiatives is always a wonderful learning opportunity. We get a different perspective on how people are approaching very similar problems and practice.”

Interested in joining the next Design Studio? Keep an eye on our calendar for more dates this fall!