UWSP offers Grant to Improve English Skills
Rachal Pukall

Lisa Vann.jpgThe Almond-Bancroft School District received a grant from the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point for the creation of the English Language Learner (ELL) Program.

Lisa Vann, a 2007 graduate of UWSP and the ELL Coordinator at the Almond-Bancroft High School, had the idea to create this program.

“Our English Language Learner Program was created to address the needs of our diverse population of Spanish speakers. Approximately 23 percent of our population has been Hispanic,” Vann said. “The program helps teachers differentiate instruction through resources in the ESL department, assists with translations to and from home, and allows for interventions aligning with RTI and the Common Core to take place in the district.”

The purpose of the ELL Program is to provide instruction in English, as well as academic support to students who have difficulty reading, writing, speaking, listening to and comprehending English. It was created to enable them to become successful not only in a traditional classroom setting, but the overall school environment and the community. 

Photo courtesy of University Public Relations and Communication Office.

Growing up, Spanish was the primary language in Vann’s household, so she knows how most of these students feel.

“My mother is from Seville, Spain, so I know what it is like to be an ESL student and how crucial it is to have the right resources in order to succeed academically. Technology bridges the gap for all learners, so I knew that an effective program would increase the communication between home and school. By teaching the Spanish families English and the English-speaking teachers Spanish, we have removed the barriers of communication and opened the doors for more frequent and effective collaboration between families and faculty,” Vann said.

Most of the Almond-Bancroft school district’s families speak Spanish, so the ELL Program, with its online literacy labs, will help to enhance learning of the English language. The labs will go over core subjects such as math, English, social studies and science.

Vann’s great idea made her the seventh person to receive the Oscar W. Neale Fellowship, which includes a $10,000 reward. The Neale Fellowship honors Oscar W. Neale and is awarded to professional development projects that involve UWSP and other local schools.

“Oscar W. Neale spent his life serving and educating underfunded populations in rural areas with limited resources. His legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of over 300 students having access to a math and language literacy lab for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. High school students will visit the UW-Stevens Point campus to hopefully reciprocate and pay forward the gift they received thanks to the Oscar W. Neale family’s generous gift,” Vann said.

Patricia Shaw, the associate dean and department head of the UWSP School of Education, likes having the ability to award scholarships, this fellowship in particular.

“It is rewarding to have a former student be the recipient of such a generous award, knowing her passion for teaching and the deep compassion she has for her students. I am very proud of Lisa and of the quality education she received at the UWSP School of Education and the UWSP Foreign Language Department,” Shaw said.

“As a 2007 graduate of Stevens Point, I knew where to find the best team of future educators who would help our school with interventions in literacy because I also had the same educational background with highly esteemed faculty from UW-Stevens Point,” Vann said.

The ELL Program also includes a partnership with students at UWSP majoring in education so that they can incorporate these teaching strategies into their curriculum for when they begin teaching in classrooms.

“It is my belief that our students will gain invaluable ‘real life’ experiences working with the A-B students in this program. These experiences will, in turn, be valuable when they become teachers,” Shaw said.

Vann loves her job as a teacher and enjoys working with her students every day.

“I love waking up in the morning and realizing that I have the opportunity to pay forward what my mother and father instilled in me years ago, a love for lifelong learning, while sharing a culture that has nurtured every aspect of who I am today. I adore the smiles on the faces of my students when they reach the ‘I got it!’ moments of a difficult lesson. Rewards also come from knowing I am helping someone to change a life for the better,” Vann said.