Dr. Thema Melendez – Plenary Address

“The civil rights issue of this generation is education,” Thelma Melendez, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Dept. of Ed. Tonight, Dr. Melendez opened the TESOL convention with personal stories of inspiration and dedication to the field of English education. Through her own personal journey as an ELL (English Language Learner), Dr. Melendez knows the challenges our students face as they are often surrounded by a language they can’t understand. She was placed in the lowest level reading group in first grade, despite the aptitude for achievement her parents saw. Dr. Melendez relayed the story of her courageous parents who saw their duty to be her advocate. They went to both her teacher and her principal in order to try to show them that their daughter was not a low-level reader. She was an ELL.

Inspired by this story, I asked Dr. Melendez after her plenary speech how other parents of ELLs could be advocates for their children. She told me that many parents of ELLs have such a high respect for teachers that they trust everything will be okay. She said that it’s important to question teachers, because teachers expect that kind of engagement. She said parents of ELLs should know that it’s not a sign of disrespect.

For those of you who attended tonight’s plenary address, I would love to know what struck you as remarkable, courageous, or inspiring about Dr. Melendez’ speech.

About agiordano

Andrea Giordano serves as the Assistant Director at Campbellsville University in Kentucky where she has been an ESL instructor for 8 years. The ESL Institute at CU averages about 60 students per term and boasts a thriving TESOL endorsement program where Andrea also teaches each semester. In 2009, Andrea created ESLbasics.com, an extensive video-centered website for English Language Learners. Andrea holds an M.Ed. in TESOL from Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA and is the author of "21 Ways to Jumpstart Your English Skills". You can learn more at her Facebook and Twitter pages.
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