Kelly Spangler, ESL Teacher at Einstein Charter Middle

Einstein Charter Schools Teacher Uses Personal Experiences to Teach ESL Students More Than Just English

Living abroad helping teacher to empathize with students’ experiences

Einstein Charter Middle School faculty member Kelly Spangler always welcomes her students into her classroom with a heightened enthusiasm. Spangler has just returned to the United States after ten years living and teaching abroad, an experience that gives her the unique ability to relate to what she calls her English as a Second Language (ESL) students’ initial “culture shoSpangler Web2ck,” when first arriving in the United States.

“Living abroad made me hyperaware of the differences that exist between American culture and that of other countries,” says Spangler. “After being away for so long, coming home and feeling somewhat like a ‘foreigner’ was a difficult adjustment. Although it does not compare to what many of my students are experiencing, it helps me think about how these differences in culture affect my students.”

Spangler uses these experiences to relate to her students and often discusses the differences in her classroom. Her experiences living and learning in other cultures gives her the unique ability to empathize and understand her students.

“When I started teaching, all I thought about were teaching methods, grammar and activities,” says Spangler, “but over the years I have realized that teaching a second language (especially to new-comers) has many more social and intellectual implications.”

“I have begun to view my pSpangler Web 1rofession as so much more than just being a language teacher. I feel like I am a linguistic and cultural ambassador for the United States.”

Spangler is one of twelve English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers in the Einstein Charter School network. She works with almost fifty students in grades 6th, 7th and 8th.   While this is her first year at Einstein, she has been teaching ESL for 13 years. She lived and taught in South Korea, Thailand, Northern Iraq, The Republic of Georgia and Poland.

Einstein Charter Schools operates four campuses east of I-510, including two PreK – 5 schools, one middle and one high school. Einstein serves more of the non-English speaking population than any other Orleans parish school. The student body at Einstein is made up of 24% Hispanic students and 16% Vietnamese students. Einstein is focused on educating this population and is the only school in Louisiana earning the Imagine Learning English as a Second Language “Super School” rating.