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ELL In Lebanon: An Upper Valley Success Story

Frank Edelblut, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education, was in Lebanon on July 17, meeting with administrators and teachers in the district’s English Language Learner (ELL) Program. The ELL Summer School is being fully funded through the department’s Title III Program, a part of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The Lebanon School District utilizes these Title III funds to supplement its local ELL programming. Since 2011, the summer program has served about 80 students from grades K-12, including many newcomers.

“We are very fortunate to have such a knowledgeable and dedicated team of ELL administrators, coordinators, and teachers in Lebanon,” stated Dr. Joanne Roberts, the superintendent of the Lebanon School District. “Our ELL program is one of our beacons of light.”

Aaron Hughes, Title III state director for the NH DOE, concurred with Roberts.

“The Lebanon School District has a great reputation for supporting its ELL staff and for welcoming the families of ELLs and including them in the program,” he said. “We are thankful that the district took the time to share its successful program with the commissioner.”

Hughes added that even with the growing number of English learners moving into the Lebanon area, their ELL cohort is one of the highest achieving in the state.

Rebecca Wurdak, the Lebanon ESOL coordinator, explained that summer program features a curriculum that incorporates the Picturing Writing techniques of Beth Olshansky and the Center for the Advancement of Art-Based Literacy. It has a holistic approach which is designed to activate all domains of language with a particular focus on narrative and informative writing.

During the three-weeks, the students build English vocabulary, practice sequencing events, use descriptive language, and develop their coherence at sentence and paragraph discourse levels, noted Timothy Koumrian, the Lebanon director of student services. The multi-age groupings of students have led to opportunities for student leadership, social-emotional development, and cross-cultural education.

The ELL Summer Program culminates in the publication of a highly expressive book that shares their journey. The students are proud of their projects which feature beautiful art and writing they’ve created.

The teachers emphasize that the program is a highlight of the year for both the students and staff, and helps to foster understanding, build friendships, and bring the entire community closer together.

“There is no ‘one way’ of describing the population of NH ELL students [in the Lebanon area] because they differ as much as the microclimate weather patterns throughout our state,” Roberts said. “We are very fortunate to have such a knowledgeable and dedicated team of ELL administrators, coordinators, and teachers in Lebanon.”

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