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VATESOL Together

  • 01 Apr 2021 8:48 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Check out our latest VATESOL podcast episode!

    Two Fists of Cilantro: Lifting up the Experience and Knowledge of Multilingual Families

    Renata Germino is a Newcomer Specialist working in Charlottesville, Virginia. In this podcast she talks with VATESOL Membership Chair, Jeannie Pfautz, about different projects she manages that celebrate multilingual learners and families with whom she works. She also spends time sharing knowledge about applying for different grants, working with community partners, and empowering young people to share their stories. Renata is happy to answer any follow-up questions you have. She can best be reached at

    Here are a few of the grants discussed in the podcast: 

    You can subscribe to the VATESOL podcast on or by searching VATESOL Together on Breaker, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, or Spotify!

  • 27 Feb 2021 12:43 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    VATESOL compiled quotes via an anonymous survey to lift up the voices of teachers, students, and administrators from the field of English learner education during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read their statements by watching the silent video presentation here:

  • 14 Feb 2021 12:35 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Happy Valentine's Day from VATESOL to all of our members and supporters!

    We are celebrating with a month of spreading love and kindness, and we hope you will join us in these efforts. Click on the video below to see how a few of our VATESOL Board Members have given or experienced acts of kindness this month, and then share your own in the comments or by tagging VATESOL on social media! ♥♥

  • 11 Feb 2021 12:56 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The regular 2021 session of the Virginia General Assembly has ended, but Governor Northam called for a special session to give lawmakers more time to work through the proposed bills. 

    Two of the bills we have been tracking were left in the House Appropriations committee. The first one, HB 1929, was a large Standards of Quality bill which would have lowered the student-teacher ratio for K-12 English language instructors in proportion to English proficiency level, according to the student’s most recent WIDA ACCESS score. The new ratios would have been:

    • 1 teacher for every 25 students at Level 1, 

    • 1 teacher for every 30 students at Level 2,

    • 1 teacher for every 40 students at Level 3, and

    • 1 teacher for every 58 students for all other English learners.

    The second bill we were watching closely, HB 1915, would have increased Virginia teacher pay to approach the national teacher salary average. 

    Essentially, both of these bills were considered, but the required funding for the bill was not approved.

    Four of the bills we have been watching were continued until the special session begins today. See the graphic below for a summary of other bills we have been following:


    Contacting your delegates and informing them of your position on important issues is a great way to stay involved. If you are not sure who your representatives are, you can find out here. You can call or email your representatives, or even tag them on social media!

    If you have questions or concerns, please reach out to Jessica Klein, the VATESOL Legislative Liaison, at
  • 10 Feb 2021 10:48 PM | Anonymous member

    With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, VATESOL is focusing this month around ways to spread kindness! This image features some suggestions for building student relationships during virtual learning. We hope you can try one or more of these this month!

  • 14 Dec 2020 3:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Dr. Mary Jane Boynton, principal of Parkside Middle School in Prince William County, Virginia

    March 13, 2020. The day that will go down in history as when traditional K-12 public education ceased to exist. The day that required a systematic, world-wide educational paradigm shift. Oh, and it needs to happen in a matter of weeks-months, rather than years. The day when all school principals learned they would be required to lead their students, staff and parents through an unprecedented pandemic, with no guidelines or ‘map’ to follow.  

    There is nothing in the leadership research or manuals to guide or assist school leaders on how to lead through a pandemic. Nothing! There is no one to call and talk to for advice or suggestions. Everything is new, uncharted and let’s be honest, downright terrifying! 

    I have been an administrator for fourteen years, and a teacher since 1992. The majority of my teaching career has been teaching and working with English learners. Since 2011 I have been the principal at an extremely diverse middle school in Northern Virginia, with close to 30% of my students identified as English Language Learners. When reflecting on how my role as an administrator has changed and what I have learned, I cannot answer that question without focusing on how it relates to my English learners and their families. 

    Priorities changed, and no longer am I thinking about how to serve my students within the school building, COVID has required me to think beyond the traditional schoolhouse, and cautiously delve into the homes of my students, especially my EL students. 

    Where did I begin to meet the needs of my EL students?  

    Communicate, communicate, and communicate a little more! 

    • Taking the time to call each and every student and their family to ensure open lines of communication. 
    • When all else fails, even in the time of COVID, visit the home, following all safety precautions. 
    • Ensure there are ample staff to answer phone calls for help and assistance. 
    • Additionally, make sure that the staff who are answering the phones, and answering the door, are able to help with the new technology requirements. 

    Access to technology

    • Ensure all students have devices, and more importantly, they know how to operate them. 
    • Ensure all students have internet access.
    • Provide a variety of opportunities for students to receive assistance, while also ensuring the safety of students and school personnel. 

    Access to learning

    • Provide students and parents a variety of chances to learn how to access the new technology programs in person, and with opportunities to practice. 
    • Staff available, before, during, and after the school day to assist parents and students with all different types of technology issues, as many times as they need us to be there. 
    • When necessary, provide in-person learning opportunities for students. I know this is not available to everyone, but thankfully we have been able to provide this to students on a case-by-case basis. 

    And then remember to…

    1. Remain calm, transparent, and sincere when communicating with students, staff, and parents. 
    2. Be prepared to do whatever it takes. 
    3. No time for excuses, only solutions. 
    4. Focus on the positive, not the negative.
    5. Take the challenges in small sections, and work through them little by little. 
    6. Display high belief and high expectations of our students, teachers and staff. 
    7. Be willing to walk the walk and talk the talk. Don’t expect others to do what you are not willing to do yourself. 
    8. Get teachers and students what they need to be successful.
    9. Celebrate the successes, regardless of how small they are. 
    10. Be grateful, and share your gratitude with your students, staff, and parents. 

    As a school leader this time period has challenged each and every one of us beyond what any of us could have imagined. However, it has also allowed us to experience a true sense of community. Together, we can make a difference, and we can rise above every challenge, and succeed.

    Mary Jane Boynton is the principal at Parkside Middle Cambridge International School in Virginia, USA. She has taught and led in Scotland, Malta, Mexico as well as the United States. At Dr. Boynton's direction, Parkside earned the accreditation as the first Cambridge Professional Development program in the United States. She specializes in leading and learning schools with diverse student populations.  

  • 07 Dec 2020 1:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Brooke Boutwell, VATESOL K-12 Special Interest Group (SIG) Leader and middle school ESL teacher in Virginia Beach City Public Schools

    As the year 2020 nears a much anticipated and desired close, VATESOL is focusing on the theme of reflection throughout the month of December. Many teachers are thinking back on their journey into virtual/distance learning and adapting to the unprecedented demands of educators. As a brand new Virginia ESL teacher, I chose to reflect on my unique teaching experiences. 

    When I was an education major in college, my professor told us a joke that said something along the lines of when special education teachers try to out acronym the English as a second language teachers, no one wins. Little did I know that 5 years into my career, I could pour out more acronyms that I ever thought possible. Here’s why...

    NYSESLAT, NYSITELL, CR Part 154, and ENL. I was introduced to the TESOL world in Upstate New York. New York has its own state run laws and regulations for ESL programs, CR Part 154. I learned all about the New York State English as a Second Language Assessment and was called an ENL teacher (English as a New Language). My first year was a bit rocky, but after 3 years, I had the lingo down. I could tell you exactly how many minutes of support a transitioning ELL was legally required to receive a week. I knew that newcomers were required to have an ENL teacher in their English class at the secondary level. I knew this information so well that I was promoted to department head after my second year.  

    At the close of my third year teaching in New York, I moved to Texas and encountered another state run program. The TELPAS became a part of my daily vocabulary. I am a military wife, and my first move was to a small town in South Texas. I was hired as an English/ESOL teacher. I did not know exactly what that meant at the time. I didn't even ask because I was just happy that I had a job before I made the move across the country. I quickly learned that Texas regulations for ELLs were not as well defined as back home. I was the only ESL certified teacher for ninth grade. In fact, the person in charge of ESL for the district was actually a speech language pathologist, and knew very little about educating language learners. My job was to teach general education freshman English, but also support all other content teachers in differentiation for the ELLs in ninth grade. I learned all about TEKS, LPAC, and TABE just in time for me to pack up and move again. 

    Year 5 brought WIDA and the ACCESS test. My move (hopefully the last for a while) to Virginia was the first WIDA state I have taught in. It is crazy to think that out of the 35 states that have adopted WIDA, I just so happened to come from 2 that don’t. Another state, another whole new set of acronyms and regulations to learn. It’s December and I still confuse my co-workers when I ask about the HLQ (Home Language Questionnaire in NY) instead of the HLS (Home Language Survey). I am still learning the “Can Do” descriptors and the different names for proficiency levels. 

    After thinking about my personal experiences with ESL in 3 different states, I started Googling. I came across this great website that compares ESL programs across all 50 states. I will reluctantly admit I spent about 2 hours clicking on various links and falling down many rabbit holes comparing programs around the country. has data on funding, identification, and a variety of other information that you might find interesting. 

    I hope you all take the time this month to reflect on a topic important to you, whether it is teaching related or not.

  • 23 Nov 2020 12:07 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Rebecca Raab, VATESOL President 2019-2020.

    When I became VATESOL’s president in September of 2019, I thought I would spend the term hyper focused on one thing—the Southeast TESOL 2020 Conference in Richmond. From October 2019 to about early March 2020, this was the case. Any spare moment I had was spent rethinking budgets, contacting speakers, brainstorming with board members, encouraging presenters to submit proposals, and recruiting exhibitors. However, by mid-March, like most of the world, the pandemic was reality.  Planning came to a nail-biting halt.  The conference was ultimately postponed. Yet, in the chaos of COVID uncertainty, there have been so many wonderful people and partners who gathered around VATESOL to help us not only overcome our pandemic related challenges, but also become a better organization. 

    Since Turkey Day is just around the corner, I thought I would serve up a baker’s dozen of yummy nuggets of VATESOL-related gratitude and thanks.

    1. Our Members = We are so grateful for each of you. Thank you for joining our COVID-19 Town Halls, participating in our first book club, attending webinars, voting, and continuing to be members. 
    2. Our 2019-2020 Board Members = Where would we be without this crew of amazing and dedicated volunteers? Thank you to 2019-2020 VATESOL Board = Katya Koubek, Monica Starkweather, Jessica Klein, Jackie Brown, Tori Pierson, Jana Moore, Marie Rose-McCully, Cammie Wilson, Laura Lewis, Pam Rose, Jenn Gooding, Lezly Taylor, Caryn Caurso, April Salerno, and Wendysue Clausson. 

    3. Our 2020-2021 VATESOL Board = I am grateful for our new board members: Rob Donahue, Brooke Boutwell, Sara Goldsmith, and Jeannie Pfautz. Also, thanks to our returning board members Jana Moore, Wendysue Clausson, Jessica Klein, Jenn Gooding, Cammie Wilson, Katya Koubek, Jackie Brown, Tori Pierson, Laura Lewis, and April Salerno. I know we’ve got an exciting year ahead! 

    4. The Virginia Department of Education = Thank you to Dr. Jessica Costa, Jenna Kelly, and Dr. Heidi Silver-Pacuilla.  We so appreciate our collaboration throughout the pandemic and look forward to working together in the future.

    5. The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez = I am so grateful for this book, and I am more grateful that I got to read it for the first time in our first ever VATESOL book club hosted by Laura Lewis, VATESOL Secretary. Every educator should read this book. Check out one member’s take on the book here: Summer Book Reflection

    6. ESL Library = ESL Library partnered with VATESOL for 2020, providing a free 2-month subscription of their amazing products to our members. Moreover, they provided an informative webinar in August sharing all the ins and outs of their amazing products. Thank you so much for partnering with us. Check out ESL Library here: 

    7. The English Learner Portal = Thank you to Kelly Reider and her amazing English Learner Portal for collaborating with us to provide an awesome workshop for our members in August. If you need PD, check out the English Learner Portal.

    8. Virginia Adult Learning and Resource Center  = VATESOL is so grateful to Hali Massy with Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center for partnering with us to offer a fantastic webinar on adult education in September. We look forward to working together in 2021.

    9. Advocacy October = Thank you to Jessica Klein, our Advocacy Liaison, for curating our first ever Advocacy October.  Check out the awesome blog post and resources from Emily Hemmingson, Certified Health Coach. Additionally, be sure to read our guest blog post from Diane Staehr Fenner on Advocating for Els During Distance Learning

    10. Zoom = Although I long for the day when we no longer need to use you so much, thank you for providing us the real-time connections we needed over the past months. To say you’ve transformed the educational and professional development landscape is the understatement of the century. And yes, I just personified Zoom, my constant COVID companion. 

    11. Tennessee TESOL = You saved the day!  Tennessee TESOL agreed to let VATESOL host Southeast TESOL in 2022, shifting their year to host until 2024.  This allowed VATESOL to postpone the Southeast 2020 conference without any financial losses/penalties. Thank you a million times over.

    12. Our Conference Partners = Thank you for working with us to postpone our big conference until 2022. We look forward to October 2022!

    13. All Teachers = I am grateful for you. You are doing it! Whatever level you’re at, teaching practices are being transformed in accelerated real-time, and you are powering through the most challenging time of your career. Treat yourself to an extra slice of pumpkin pie and a nap or ten.

    The 2019-2020 VATESOL Board would like to express its enormous gratitude and love to Rebecca Raab for her dedication, professionalism, leadership, courage, and compassion. She will continue to serve on the 2020-2021 Board in the role of Past-President.

  • 20 Oct 2020 10:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Advocating for English learners is one of the central goals of our professional field. During the month of October, we have been sharing content related to advocacy at various levels.

    This week, we move to the state level of advocacy. Jessica Klein, VATESOL Advocacy and Legislative Liaison, created this informational video explaining the Virginia General Assembly. Check it out and learn how to more effectively advocate for our ELs at the state level!

  • 14 Oct 2020 5:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    To continue our month of advocacy, we are honored to share this blog post written by Diane Staehr Fenner, author and president of SupportEd.


    We have learned that in some districts in the United States, a disproportionate number of ELs did not participate in distance learning in spring 2020 – they just did not show up.

    With the majority of school divisions in Virginia beginning the school year either fully remote or using a hybrid model, our sudden pivot in spring 2020 to distance learning has now largely become the norm this fall. The image below shows how school divisions have begun the 2020-21 school year.

    As of the 2019-20 school year, English learners (ELs) made up nearly nine percent of the school-age population in Virginia, and we must ensure that ELs receive an equitable education during the current, highly unusual school year. We know that ELs already faced multiple challenges in terms of equity before the pandemic began, and the widespread adoption of distance learning models has exacerbated those inequities. We have learned that in some districts in the United States, a disproportionate number of ELs did not participate in distance learning in spring 2020 – they just did not show up. However, we can leverage our advocacy skills to ensure ELs are included in policy and practice conversations and not an afterthought this school year.  

    While there are many advocacy issues for ELs who are taking part in distance learning, this blog post will focus on only three: supporting EL families, scaffolding instruction for ELs, and ensuring valid assessment for ELs. For each issue, I will summarize the urgency around advocacy and will offer some resources to support your advocacy for ELs. 

    First and foremost, we must support EL families during these stressful times. From helping families receive the technology and tools needed in order for their children to access online instruction through helping them connect to resources in their communities such as food banks and healthcare, advocating for EL families has never been more crucial. We must collaborate to join forces in support of our EL families. 

    Suggested resources: 

    Now more than ever, we must ensure instruction is appropriately scaffolded for ELs who are learning in a distance learning environment. We have the opportunity to improve ELs’ instruction during the current year and must ensure that ELs are meaningfully included and supported so they can learn content and continue to develop their academic language skills. ELs may now have limited opportunities to practice their English in face to face settings, so we must advocate and offer our expertise in ways to foster ELs’ participation and learning. 

    Suggested resources:

    Last spring, many school districts decided that assessments would not count and students would not receive grades. That is overwhelmingly not the case during the current school year, as students are expected to take part in instruction as well as assessment, and most students will receive grades. The stakes are particularly high for ELs, since there are already many barriers to valid assessment and grading for this group of students. 

    Suggested resources: 

    As we settle in to our new routines this year, let’s make sure that we take time to reflect on advocacy as a crucial tool to allow our ELs’ assets to shine.


    SupportEd is a woman-owned small business based in Fairfax, VA. We offer five formats and multiple topics for online professional development to help you best support your ELs in distance learning, hybrid, or face-to-face environments:

    1. Virtual PD

    2. Webinars

    3. On-demand courses

    4. Facilitated 12-hour courses

    5. Online book studies

    For more information, see

    To learn more about the different types of online PD we offer, see

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