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SD Department of Education
Nov. 2017  

Image of Mercia Schroeder. TEACHER FEATURE: Bringing cultures together in a small South Dakota town

I have no idea what I want to do with my life, but boy, I want to speak this language. That’s what Mercia Schroeder remembers thinking as a 5th grade student in Brazil, when a teacher stood in front of her class with a guitar and sang a short song in English.

Schroeder teaches Spanish and supports 7th-12th grade English learners in the Plankinton School District. Nine years ago, the district hired her as a bilingual paraprofessional to assist elementary school English learners.

While her career to that point had been in banking and trading, she quickly came to love the work and began studying to earn her teaching certificate and English as a New Language endorsement.

“Mrs. Schroeder has done so much to bring the ELL program in Plankinton to life, from becoming EL-certified to building an English Acquisition program to meet the needs of our newcomer population in the junior/senior high,” says Plankinton Elementary Principal LeeAnn Nussbaum. “The district recognizes the unique needs of our EL population and has dedicated professional development for staff to help address these needs within the regular classroom.”

The road goes both ways
Neither English nor Spanish is Schroeder’s first language; it’s Portuguese. She’s also studied a bit of Italian. So she’s very familiar with language acquisition.

She actually encourages English learners to take her Spanish classes. While most English learners in Plankinton are fluent Spanish speakers, they benefit from learning the grammar fundamentals and writing skills.

But beyond that, Schroeder says, they bring a richness of perspective to the class. “They are empowered, because this is an area in which they can help their native English-speaking classmates,” she says. “Our English learners are from Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, they have different accents, and they use some different vocabulary, which everyone can learn from.”

It also helps native English speakers empathize with their English learner classmates.

“We start on the first day talking about kindness,” Schroeder says. “You need to be kind to yourself. You’re going to be frustrated sometimes learning another language. And you need to be kind to others because they are also learners here. Whatever it is, everybody’s here in the same boat, trying to learn something.”

student standing infrom on photo collage. His t-shirt says WE ARE JUAN

And teachers have discovered that strategies to help English learners can also help native English speakers. Schroeder gives the example of an English class exercise: finding a sentence’s missing punctuation. The high school English teacher helped students by letting them know how many items were missing. “So that’s a little scaffolding piece that teacher would have picked up through the SIOP [Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol] training,” she says.

In the community
Community members regularly contact Schroeder wondering how they can help English learners and their families. Individuals, churches and other organizations frequently offer donations to help families new to the area.

In addition, Schroeder serves as a sort of informal liaison to help new families feel welcome and encouraged to participate in community events. She often translates promotional materials and when needed, provides cultural context:

“It might be a Halloween party, and a new family may need to know, what is Halloween? Or a family might ask me, why is my child supposed to wear a red shirt to school? And I explain, well, in that case, we’re like, saying no to drugs. We demonstrate things by using a colored t-shirt. It’s a cultural thing. They don’t know that, so they need to be informed.”

Hispanic Cultural Fair
This fall marked the third year of a schoolwide event hosted by Schroeder’s Spanish students. Students choose an aspect of Hispanic culture to study and develop poster boards, interactive presentations and papers.

It all comes together in a Hispanic Cultural Fair in the school commons area. Elementary students attend, and the past two years, it has been open to the public. Parents also get in on the fun, preparing ethnic foods (some from their own home countries).

Image from the cultural fair. People sitting at tables. Table of different types of ethnic  food.

Last summer, Schroeder took students on a trip abroad for the first time, heading to Costa Rica. The students who took the trip put together their presentation on the stage. Visitors could do scavenger hunts in model rainforest and crypt tunnels and take dance lessons, all things the students learned about during their travels.

Image of young students walking through a paper display of a rain forest.

Passion for Plankinton
It doesn’t take long to pick up on Schroeder’s passion for her work and her community: “It’s good every day,” she says. “I don’t have a bad day, I’ll tell you that. I have busier days than others.” She laughs as she says this, but it’s no exaggeration. Recently deciding that school days weren’t enough, Schroeder has started a Sunday class teaching English to adults.

Image of two students wearing WE ARE JUAN t-shirts standing by skeleton wearing ethnic clothing. Behind of them is a disply with photos and text L Catrina and La LLorona.

Stock photo of ear buds. Webinar coming up on DOE’s National Board Certification cohort
Thinking about pursuing National Board Certification, but not sure what to expect? The Department of Education is hosting a webinar Dec. 5 at 4:30 p.m. CST for those interested in learning more about the process and the cohort that will start in 2018. Current National Board Certified teachers will be on hand to answer questions.
  • Dec. 5, 4:30 p.m. CST: Call 1-866-410-8397 (conference code: 6057736260)

Feedback wanted on World Language Standards
A work group reviewed South Dakota’s World Language Standards this past summer and is seeking input from educators before moving forward with public hearings. The proposed World Language Standards [https://www.smore.com/m7ujf] are available for viewing and educator feedback throughout the remainder of the 2017-18 school year. The deadline for educator feedback is May 15, 2018.

The Digital Library. Smarter Balanced Logo. DOE seeking presenter proposals for Mentoring Summer Academy

The Department of Education is seeking proposals for breakout sessions at the 2018 Mentoring Summer Academy. More than 600 new teachers and mentors who are participating in the statewide mentor program will attend this event scheduled for June 4-5 in Sioux Falls.

The purpose of the Mentoring Summer Academy is to provide a time of celebration, reflection and professional development.

Presenters will be reimbursed travel expenses and will receive $150 per session for their work.  The Mentoring Summer Academy will be held in Sioux Falls at the Denny Sanford Premier Center June 4-5, with the breakout sessions on June 5.

Proposals are due by Feb. 15. Find more information on the Proposal Application page [https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SummerAcademyBreakout].  

Stock photo of hands holding up colorful letters that spell ENGLISH SD English Learner Chats to begin in December

Beginning Dec. 19, the Department of Education will host monthly webinar sharing sessions for educators who work with English learners. Hear new ideas from colleagues, share ideas and ask questions. Find details, including several planned topics of discussion, on this flyer [http://doe.sd.gov/pressroom/zebra/news/17/Nov/documents/EL-Chats.pdf].

image of South Dakota Early Learning Guidelines cover. South Dakota Early Learning Guidelines updated

Revised and expanded to include birth to kindergarten, the South Dakota Early Learning Guidelines [http://dss.sd.gov/docs/childcare/early_learning_guidelines.pdf] are for early childhood professionals, teachers, caregivers, parents and all adults who nurture and support the development of young children. 

This revision of the Early Learning Guidelines also included the addition of two new appendices: "Supporting Children with Disabilities" and "Supporting Dual Language Learners."

The document describes developmentally appropriate goals for children’s development and learning at each age level: infant, toddler and preschooler. The guidelines are adapted, with permission, from the North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning. The late Dr. Gera Jacobs, University of South Dakota professor of early childhood, was the author and project coordinator of a panel of professionals and parents from throughout the state who contributed to the document.

“Updating South Dakota’s Early Learning Guidelines brought together stakeholders from across our state,” said Kristi Swier, Head Start State Collaboration Director. “The finished project represents a shared vision for our youngest learners. Quality care and education in these formative early years sets children up for success throughout their school years and beyond.”

Among those making use of the updated guidelines are School Administrators of South Dakota, through their new Preschool Levels of Excellence program [https://www.sasd.org/preschool-levels-excellence/], which launched this school year. Carmen Stewart, Head Start Director with the University of South Dakota, helped develop the Levels of Excellence and served on the South Dakota Early Learning Guidelines review panel.

“The South Dakota Early Learning Guidelines are included in the Levels of Excellence tool in several places,” Stewart said. “For instance, they are specifically mentioned under Curriculum. To reach the exemplary level, a preschool program must demonstrate that ‘a clearly stated framework/curriculum is utilized on an ongoing and consistent basis and is aligned with the South Dakota Early Learning Guidelines.’ In addition, several of the strategies or indicators found in the Early Learning Guidelines are listed as evidence to look for in the Levels of Excellence.”

A link to the South Dakota Early Learning Guidelines [http://dss.sd.gov/docs/childcare/early_learning_guidelines.pdf] is provided as a resource to administrators going through the training to use the Levels of Excellence tool and will be listed on the SASD website as a resource for local school district administrators.

image of cover of Oceti Sakowin Essential for Understandings and Standards. November Highlights: Ideas for using the OSEU in your classroom

The Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings and Standards [http://doe.sd.gov/contentstandards/documents/OcetiSakowinEUS.pdf] are state content standards intended to help guide South Dakota K-12 educators in teaching Native American history and culture. A work group has been developing OSEU-aligned sample social studies lessons for teachers of all grade levels [http://www.wolakotaproject.org/lessons-sd-social-studies-standards/]. Each month we are highlighting samples, developed using the Inquiry Design Model Blueprint™:
  • PK-5: Talking Stick
  • 6-8: Interrelationships
  • 9-12: Social Change

Screen shot of The Digital Library. November Spotlight: Playlist for HS Statistics and Probability

On the Department of Education’s Digital Library webpage, this month’s resource spotlight is a look at the SBAC Connections Playlist for Statistics and Probability. Playlists are designed to help educators make sense of SBAC Interim Assessment results. The Digital Library is an online repository of formative assessment resources available at no cost to all South Dakota public school teachers.

Read more at https://doe.sd.gov/assessment/DigitalLibrary.aspx.

Image of the cover of the Data Digest. 2017 School Library Data Digest available

The 2017 School Library Data Digest [http://library.sd.gov/SDSL/publications/DOC/RPT-DataDigestSchoolLib2017.pdf] is now available, with information about services, electronic resources, digital access, circulation, programming and more at school libraries across South Dakota. The School Library Data Digest is a compilation of data gathered via the annual school library survey distributed by the State Library to school districts every spring.

Upcoming Events

Except where otherwise noted, details on the following events are available at GoSignMeUp [http://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/].

Formative Language Assessment
Dec. 5-6, Sioux Falls

CTE 101 Online
Jan. 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 (4-5 p.m. CST)
Jan. 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 (5-6 p.m. CST)

Effective Core EL Program
Jan. 4, Pierre
Jan. 5, Sioux Falls

ACCESS 2.0 Assessment Workshop
Jan. 16, Pierre
Jan. 17, Watertown
Jan. 18, Mitchell

2017-2018 Program Improvement Meetings
Jan. 22, Rapid City
Jan. 23, Pierre
Jan. 24, Aberdeen
Jan. 29, Mitchell
Jan. 30, Sioux Falls
Jan. 31, Brookings

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