Daisy Miranda is a fifth grade teacher at Baileywick Elementary School in Raleigh and also a recent graduate of the NC State English as a Second Language (ESL) Add-On Licensure online program. Through the learning in this program, Miranda is better able to effectively teach her Multilingual Learners (ML) and provide a smoother transition for immigrant students. Miranda is of Hispanic heritage, which proved helpful in understanding the culture, fears and concerns of her ML students and their parents.
Miranda decided to pursue ESL licensure after moving from New York to North Carolina and beginning to teach at Wake County Public School System (WCPSS). She realized she was often the only Spanish-speaking teacher in workshops, and there were very few Latino/a teachers in the system at that time.
“Whenever curriculums or teaching methods were discussed at WCPSS, there was no mention of how to teach those who do not know English,” Miranda said. “My interest in pursuing the add-on program at NC State began there. I had been saying for years that I was going to get my ESL licensure, but was always too busy to do it. When immigrant students from South and Central America began joining my class, I realized that I could no longer postpone my pursuit. I also knew that the program would better prepare me to teach any student that didn’t know English, not just those students from Spanish-speaking countries.”
Miranda joined the program in fall 2019 and had to maintain a busy schedule as a full-time teacher and a student.
“It was very intensive; I felt like I was working all the time,” Miranda said. “However, I was determined to complete this program. I made sure to use my time wisely at home and at work. All the while, I was trying not to neglect any family members by making the time to spend with them as well. My weekends were split between NC State, work and family.”
The ESL Add-On Licensure program includes courses on teaching linguistics for MLs, language acquisition, U.S. immigration and schooling, and methods and materials for teaching ESL. The culminating class of the program includes a field experience observing and teaching in an ESL classroom. Miranda was placed at a middle school with an age group she’d never worked with before, which challenged Miranda in a new way.
“Gaining my add-on helped me gain confidence and step out of my comfort zone,” Miranda said. “I worked alongside another ESL teacher and was given opportunities to talk to my peers about MLs. I was able to deliver presentations to my peers and was able to establish a good relationship and rapport with my students’ families. I joined our school’s Family Engagement Committee and was able to help parents feel included and valued.”
Highlights of Miranda’s time at NC State included the flexibility and availability. Miranda was able to make special connections at her middle school, including a mentor.
“Henrietta Vazquez was my mentor and an excellent ESL teacher,” Miranda said. “Henrietta has over 30 years of experience. Being teamed up with someone who had so much knowledge about teaching ESL and helping MLs learn was an honor and a privilege.”
Miranda was able to connect with people further than NC State and even the U.S. because of the virtual learning environment.
“My experience was not only limited to our Zoom classroom, but to international classrooms as well,” Miranda said. “My professors linked our class with students and professors from other countries so we could discuss education and the path ESL learning is moving towards. I loved collaborating with teachers in the United States and abroad.”
Miranda continues to teach at Baileywick since her graduation from the ESL Add-On program. One new student, Ana, has shown impressive progress with Miranda. Ana is unafraid to speak English, even if she makes mistakes; she’s hungry to learn the language. Recently, Ana was having trouble with math.
“I had to scaffold my lessons to help her understand the concepts,” Miranda said. “We practiced concepts like fractions, division and multiplication during small groups. As she grew confident, she began to out-perform the other MLs who have been in the U.S. for two years or more.”
Based on what she learned with the ESL Add-On program, Miranda began to collect growth data on her students’ performance. Ana not only achieved high growth, but high proficiency in math, ending up at the 97th percentile in her class.
“I gave Ana feedback and told her how much she had grown,” Miranda said. “The look and smile on her face were priceless!! Ana, never once, let the language barrier stop her. I am so grateful for her persistence and determination. I believe that building up her math vocabulary in English, using manipulatives and pictures was a tremendous help as it allowed Ana to visualize and better understand what I was teaching.”
Miranda highly recommends continuing education for anyone who has interest and believes that education is crucial for success. Online programs like the ESL Add-On, however, require additional dedication.
“Doing an online program takes discipline and commitment,” Miranda said. “It is possible to accomplish, however, you have to manage your time well.”