In the spotlight: Lori Menning, Cooperative Educational Service Agency, Wisconsin
Lori Menning is the English learner, bilingual-bicultural and world language consultant for Cooperative Educational Service Agency (CESA) 6 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. She is a strong advocate for language learners at the local, state and national level, and will be a featured speaker at FETC 2020. She discusses her job in this Q&A with WIDA, a resource hub for educators supporting multilingual learners that was developed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (It is reprinted with permission.)
How long have you been in education, and what is your current position?
This is my 21st year in education. In August 2018, I joined CESA 6 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, as English learner, bilingual-bicultural and world language consultant. I love what I do, as I get to work with students, teachers and administrators. I have a variety of roles and responsibilities, including being able to spend one day a week working as the K-12 bilingual-bicultural education teacher in the Rosendale-Brandon School District. I enjoy this very much as I am able to support students, teachers and administrators and at the same time stay relevant in the field. In addition, I facilitate numerous workshops at the agency, including Getting Started With English Learners; Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol or the SIOP Model; Interpreting ACCESS Score Reports To Guide Instruction and Plan Supports; and Technology To Support English Learners. Also, I lead our Title III Consortium for the agency, which allows me the opportunity to visit schools to conduct professional development, facilitate trainings and coach teachers.
Tell us about your prior experience that prepared you for this leadership role.
I hold birth to age 21 licensure in ESL, bilingual-bicultural education and Spanish world language, and I have experience at all levels. I also have my principal and director of curriculum licensures. For 16 years, I was the secondary bilingual teacher and district bilingual coordinator in the School District of New London, Wisconsin. Prior to that, I supported a K-12 EL program and taught Spanish at the elementary level. In addition, I have taught higher education courses at the college level working with future and current teachers.
What are some recent highlights?
I am most proud of the Smart Thinking Award I received from the agency last spring for organizing interpreting and translation services. I am also proud of the English Learner Leadership Connections Series I developed last year. The goal of this series is to meet the needs of local coordinators and administrators working with ELs under Title III. Members have the opportunity to learn about and discuss current topics and also be able to network and resource share with leaders from throughout the region. Last year, in our inaugural year, we met once per semester with ongoing online collaboration throughout the year. This year, due to increased interest, we have expanded to meet once per quarter.
This series is exactly what I was looking for when I was a district bilingual coordinator, so I appreciate being able to facilitate this opportunity for leaders to move education forward for ELs. New this year, I also developed an Interpreter and Translator Connections Series that is based on a need for staff in these important roles to come together to learn and grow and feel validated for the work they do to support our EL students and families. In addition, beginning in November we will host a World Language Teacher Symposium where we will bring world language teachers together at the agency for the first time to learn and collaborate.
You are truly an exceptionally dedicated educator, Lori! Please describe your recent achievements and honors.
As I strive to advocate for ELs at the state level, I am on the board of both state organizations dedicated to English learners. I have served Wisconsin Teachers of English to Students of Other Languages (WITESOL) for many years including being member-at-large, president elect, president, past president, secretary and advocacy chair. With WIDA being housed in nearby Madison, Wisconsin, WITESOL is fortunate to be able to collaborate with WIDA for our annual fall conference bringing in a keynote or plenary speakers.
In addition, I recently was nominated to the Wisconsin Association for Bilingual Education (WIABE) Board as member-at-large. On this board I will represent bilingual education in the CESA 6 region, which serves 39 public school districts and beyond.
I frequently present and facilitate workshops at state and national conferences teaching best practices and strategies for working with ELs. I include the work of the WIDA Consortium in all that I do. In January 2020, I will return for the second year in a row and third time as an invited facilitator for a two hour workshop titled “Technology To Support English Learners” at the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC).
What are you most passionate about?
I am passionate about second language acquisition and bilingual education. As advocacy chair for WITESOL, I have attended the TESOL Advocacy and Policy Summit in Washington, D.C., for the past eight years. The summit begins with issue briefings, breakout sessions and advocacy training, followed by a full day of visits to congressional offices on Capitol Hill. This annual event is powerful, but my advocacy does not stop there. I continue to be in touch with our local members of Congress, updating them on educational policy and issues affecting our students and classrooms. Because of our ongoing communication, I have had two congressman visit my bilingual classroom, which provided powerful experiences for all. Hearing stories firsthand from students is definitely moving. It drives my work daily, and I hope it continues to have an impact on our members of Congress as they recall what they learned from their constituents’ children.
How has WIDA helped you achieve your goals as a teacher leader and consultant?
I stay current on everything WIDA and enjoy seeing the consortium grow. When I started in education, Tim Boals was at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, and then he became the founder and director of WIDA.
As I facilitate workshops and provide professional development, I share the WIDA Can Do Descriptors as a tool to assist teachers in seeing what their EL students can do. I also teach how to level up to help their ELs work toward obtaining English proficiency.
In addition, as the ESL and bilingual-bicultural education course instructor in the CESA 6 Residency In Teacher Education (RITE) Program, which is a Wisconsin Department of Public Education-approved educator preparation program, our coursework is centered around the WIDA framework. Teachers align their lesson plans to the WIDA standards in English or Spanish, refer to the WIDA Can Do Descriptors as they communicate with colleagues in meeting the needs of ELs, use the WIDA rubrics for assessment, and use the ACCESS for ELLs test scores to measure growth and write annual language plan goals.
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