Optimists support English Learner group in MCS

MADISON – Madison Optimist Club members value the work of the English Learner or EL group in Madison City Schools and recently donated to EL.

“As many are aware, teachers often have to dig into their own pockets to fund programs that are not otherwise supported by existing sources. One of the projects that Madison Optimist Club supports is grants to educators to help with those programs,” Optimist Publicist Vic van Leeuwen said.

The EL group received a grant from Optimists that they used for teambuilding in their growing EL teacher population. “We have gone from nine EL teachers to 20 EL teachers in three years. We expect to continue growing as a team into the next academic year,” Kaetlyn Hermann, Federal Programs Specialist, said.

“This growth is due to the large population of English Language Learners or ELL in Madison City. We now have 690 active ELL students,” Hermann said.

Central Office staff for EL include Hermann; Dr. Natalia Dooley, Federal Programs Coordinator; and Carol Bohatch, Federal Programs Specialist (retired) and Department of Defense Education Activity or DoDEA STEM Grant Project Director. Another MCS employee, Lee Shaw, supports the work of EL teachers; Shaw works as MCS Community Development Coordinator.

At Madison Optimist Club’s meeting on March 28, Hermann and Bohatch gave a presentation, “Building Culture – One Heart, Many Languages,” to explain the work of their department and the ways EL teachers had used the Optimist grant.

The department’s goals can be summarized in a quote from Susan Lieberman: “By building relations, we create a source of love and personal pride and belonging that makes living in a chaotic world easier.”

The educators’ goals for the Optimist grant included growing a “team” mentality for the department, renewing a group mission of serving MCS students and creating a brand that will identify the group as a friend to newcomer EL students, Hermann said.

First, they allotted time to build connections and agreed on the usefulness of a department shirt. For a group activity, the educators finalized the shirt’s design and discussed “important characteristics to display publicly,” Bohatch said.

For sustainability in their work, the group considered, “How do we continue this mission, support and growth without federal funds?” Hermann said.

On printing day, the group met at Lab Apparel to watch and give hands-on assistance in screen-printing their shirts with a custom logo, showing EL teachers are friends to newcomer ELL students. The educators decided on a T-shirt with the phrasing, “One Heart – Many Languages. Madison City ESL.”

“The Optimist grant has enabled us to create a team mentality across our 11 schools and focus us on our goal of serving MCS students,” Bohatch said.

In addition, the MCS EL workers held a retreat, judged as a definite success. The department consulted with Madison’s first-responders on building community connections and resources for EL families.

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