Calman Wins Easy English NEWS award

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Caren Kalman, ESL teacher at John Kennedy School in North Bergen, New Jersey has won the Elizabeth Claire Easy English NEWS award.

children looking out of bus window

English language learners posing before a field trip

Caren Kalman, ESL teacher at John Kennedy School in North Bergen, New Jersey has won the Elizabeth Claire Easy English NEWS award.

The $500 award for her winning essay was presented to Kalman by Judie Haynes, president of NJTESOL/NJBE (New Jersey Teachers of Speakers of Other Languages and New Jersey Bilingual Educators) at their annual conference in New Brunswick, New Jersey on May 23, 2011.

Kalman’s essay describes challenging educational circumstances and how she would use the $500 award to impact them. In her essay, Caren Kalman writes: “My students are English language learners, grades one through six. They have immigrated here from South and Central America, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. Many live in single-parent homes or with caregivers other than their parents. Poor nutrition, overcrowding, and unsound sleeping habits test their survival skills daily. Some of the students move frequently because of the threat of eviction. Some are victims of parental neglect or abuse and are witnesses to domestic violence.

“Parents of these English language learners are often unavailable to assist with homework or studying because of illiteracy and lack of English skills; they may work several jobs and not be home until late in the evening. Many children have never been to the local library, a museum, the New Jersey shore or even more than a few miles beyond their own neighborhoods. Instead, they spend a lot of time inside their houses watching television and playing video games.

“These and other disturbing socioeconomic struggles within the community make the job of educating newly arrived youngsters in our school a challenge for the entire faculty. How do we overcome these very significant problems of poverty that often trump our students’ desires and abilities to achieve scholastically? We bilingual and ESL teachers know, that for our pupils especially, the overwhelming gap in their background knowledge and world experience impacts negatively on their academic success.”

Miss Kalman plans to use the Elizabeth Claire award to help motivate an interest in science in her students. She plans to follow up a trip to the Liberty Science Museum with hands-on experiences in the sciences with visiting experts in the field of geology and insect study. One project will be purchasing a butterfly life cycle kit and companion activity books for the students to observe metamorphosis of a caterpillar to adult butterflies, as well as reference books for the classroom.

In her acceptance speech, Ms. Kalman said, “Thank you to the executive board of NJTESOL and NJBE and Judie Haynes for selecting me as the first annual recipient of the Elizabeth Claire Teacher’s Award. I am especially grateful to Elizabeth Claire for her generosity in offering the award and for recognizing the challenges that exist in public education today for both ESL teachers and their students. I accept the award on behalf of the ESL learners at John Kennedy School in North Bergen who will benefit from the $500 grant. I promise to use the funds wisely and report on the outcome. I have used Easy English NEWS for many years both when I taught adults and currently with my 5th and 6th grade classes. I have been inspired by Elizabeth Claire’s work. She reaches out in relevant and compelling ways to ELLs of all ages through her newspaper and many books.”

Elizabeth Claire, Inc. produces Easy English NEWS, and other resources for English language learners and their ESL teachers. The company’s purpose is to help immigrants improve their English reading and speaking skills while learning about American culture, customs, holidays, history, government, citizenship, and skills for surviving in their new environment


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