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Tempest Lecture Series panelists address refugee, ESL students in classrooms

04/13/2016 E-town NOW By Samantha Weiss

“The preK-12 student population in America is becoming increasingly ethnically and linguistically diverse. As such, we need to prepare our future teachers to recognize student diversity as a strength in the classroom. Our greatest resource as teachers is our students.”

Dr. Monica Belfatti, assistant professor of education at Elizabethtown College shared these thoughts with an audience of about 100 education students and faculty members at the Anna Reese Tempest Distinguished Educator Lecture Series Monday, March 21 at the College The topic: the widely-debated topic of immigrant education.

Attendees were asked to tune in to the event with the twitter hashtag #edtempest. Held in the Susquehanna Room, the event was followed by a reception, in which students and the speakers could interact more informally.

Panelists, chosen to speak at the Tempest Lecture, were selected based on the annual theme, which is explored by first-year students in the Education Department’s common read and in senior seminar. On the panel were Dr. Gerald Campano, associate professor and chair of the Reading, Writing and Literacy Department at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education ; Joan McManness, community education instructor with Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13; and Amber Hilt, coordinator of K-12 ESL and World Language at the School District of Lancaster.

Dr. Elizabeth Coyle, associate professor of education, and Belfatti were co-chairs of the planning committee.

Campano, who centered his discussion on the role of identity in a child’s education and how inequalities can impact their ability to learn, challenged the current and future educators in the room to imagine refugee students as emerging poets or philosophers when teaching them, so they can learn to their full potential.

“Kid’s identities and experiences are a profound resource in the classroom,” Campano said.

The number of ESL students–500 refugees, among the more than 1,900–in the School District of Lancaster has increased significantly from last year when only 93 refugee students were enrolled, said Hilt, as she talked about the changing demands on education.

With this in mind, McManness rallied for state regulations that accommodate ESL students and their unique learning needs.

Dr. Rachel Finley-Bowman, Chair of the Department of Education noted that the department “always strives to have a mixture of scholars, policy makers and field practitioners on the issues so our students have the opportunity to make rich connections and apply it to their own experiences.”

“In my future classroom,” said Ashlee Punte, a junior early and special education major, who attended the lecture, “I plan to implement a community which encourages students to discuss their background and culture with others.”

The Tempest lecture, intended to bring speakers to campus who discuss matters of “practice and policy in education,” is part of a series, which occurs each year in memory of Anna Reese Tempest, a 1934 E-town graduate. While majoring in French, Tempest exhibited a strong dedication to teaching and went on to share her knowledge in foreign languages at Grant High School in Portland, Oregon. She died in 2002.

“We hope that students continue to be exposed to new ideas in the field as expressed through our signature theme of social justice,” Finley-Bowman said. “We hope they remain reflective about the development of their own teaching practice and how such dialogue can inform that practice.”

Last year’s lecture focused on racial inequality in the education system.

As Campano closed his portion of the discussion, he reminded the education students of the value of their profession. “You are an advocate, and you are all warriors of social justice, just by virtue of your profession.”

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