BU Wheelock alumni Daina Zhou and Matt Sims joined their professor and advisor, Dr. Christine Leider, Clinical Assistant Professor and Program Director for Bilingual Education and TESOL Education, at this fall’s WIDA Consortium Conference to present “What’s/Who’s in Your Text Sets?: Representation, Engagement and Social Justice.” Zhou graduated from BU Wheelock undergraduate program in Bilingual Education and Sims, a 2012 alum from BU Wheelock, returned to BU Wheelock in 2018 to pursue a graduate degree focused on teaching English as a Second Language.
They presented on how educators empower multilingual students, emphasizing the need for curriculum that represents the lived experiences of students, engages in their interests and reality, and provides opportunity for developing language and content. They also shared examples of text sets that include a diverse range of text types, authors, protagonist, narratives and perspectives.
Sims and Zhou are both practicing ESL teachers. Zhou notes the presentation was “spoken through the lens of [their] everyday lives as teachers including […] some of the troubleshooting tips, cultural knowledge and practical applications” that they have picked up since being in the classroom.
Educators and curriculum experts must “think more deeply about who the people writing the texts we’re teaching are and whether they look and feel like our students,” says Sims, who in addition to teaching at McDevitt Middle School in Waltham. Doing so makes “learning more relevant and accessible” and sends an implicit message to students that their culture is valued and valid. Students who have those supportive, validating classroom experiences are empowered to amplify their own voices in whatever community and environment that they find themselves in.
Dr. Leider highlighted the importance of sharing this at the WIDA Consortium’s annual conference, which is the largest gathering of educators for PreK-12 English Language Learners.
“This conference really highlights the work happening across the country to best support multilingual learners,” Dr Leider explains. “So many practicing teachers were not just present, but were [also] presenters which … really speaks to the expertise that teachers have and how we need more opportunities for teachers to learn from each other.”
This year’s conference took place in Providence, RI and a significant number of BU Wheelock faculty, students and alumni attended. “Because it was in New England,” Dr. Leider says, “everywhere you turned, there was a BU Wheelock connection.” Dr. Leider made two additional presentations at the conference, Facilitating Special Education and ESL/Bilingual Educators Collaboration with Questions (co-presented with Lasell University faculty Dr. Claudia Rinaldi and Sara Niño) and Results from eWorkshop Pilot and Collaboration between WIDA and ICMEE (co-presented with Dr. Kara Viesca of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; and Dr. Diep Ngyuen and Jennifer Aleckeson, Director and Assistant Director, respectively of Professional Learning at WIDA).