2024 Teaching Excellence in Action in Minnesota (TEAM) K-12 Scholarship Winners

TEAM Scholar logoCongratulations to the following 2024 TEAM Scholars who were selected to attend a CARLA Summer Institute this year! Each of the Scholars will carry out an outreach activity or a classroom-based project this fall based on the institute topic.

The TEAM Scholarship program is a joint initiative of the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, the Minnesota Council on the Teaching of Language and Culture, and the Minnesota Department of Education.

Click each Scholar's name for a statement and a description of their proposed project.

List of 2024 TEAM Scholars and Proposed Projects

Elysia Batres
Washington Technology Magnet High School, St Paul St. Paul
Grades ,9-12 English
CARLA Summer Institute: Getting Started with Project-Based Language Learning
I was in the elementary setting for English as a Second Language and 1 year ago was moved to working with High School students new to the country. At this time, I am developing new curriculum to support language learners who have been in the country 3 years or less and their age ranges from 14-19. This institute will help me build effective, engaging, and meaningful lessons and curriculum.

Proposed Project: I will use what I learn to develop an Ancient Civilization Level 1.5 Social Studies unit. This unit focuses on several ancient civilizations and I am wanting to incorporate more connections to students’ histories and cultures. This scholarhip will allow me the opportunity to ensure the unit is well rounded, engaging and accessible to students’ language proficiency level and interests. Currently the unit I have to work with is teacher led and I am working to build independence in learning with the students in Level 1.5 and providing them more voice, choice and agency in their learning.

In addition, I would use what I learned to collaborate with colleagues and newer teachers to help implement more project-based learning within the MLL department in our school especially in the Language Academy (newcomer program) to better engage and develop English language proficiency. I work closely with several teachers and this institute would help me better support the new educators in how to develop strong, meaningful project-based learning opportunities to all students, especially those who are between level 1 and level 2. It can be intimidating to create such units because of the differentiation needed, so having a way to approach this in a concrete way will be very valuable. I am hopeful that by creating a unit myself, and collaborating and supporting other educators in my building we will be better able to support our students. I think this would help us create strong curriculum in all our classes while fostering an environment where we share and create together.

Zhuo Li
Camden High School, Minneapolis
Grade 9, Chinese
CARLA Summer Institute: Culture as the Core
I work at Camden High School in North Minneapolis, which is a very diverse urban high school with students from of all culture backgrounds. Many of our students are from disadvantaged families, so they rarely have the chance to explore or experience other culture or even travel. I want to create projects that could give them chance to delve into the richness and complexity of Chinese culture. Students will not only deepen their language skills but also broaden their perspectives and cultivate a deeper appreciation for the interconnectedness of cultures in our global society.

Proposed Project: The objective of my project Cultural Explorations: Bridging Language and Tradition is to deepen students' understanding of Chinese culture and language by exploring cultural elements embedded within the Chinese language and traditions. Students will select a specific aspect of Chinese culture to explore, such as traditional festivals (e.g., Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival), cuisine, customs, art forms (e.g., calligraphy, paper-cutting), or historical landmarks. Through research and inquiry, students will investigate the historical significance, cultural symbolism, and contemporary practices associated with their chosen aspect of Chinese culture.
Rachel Smisek
Hiawatha Academies - Northrup, Minneapolis
Grade 2, English
CARLA Summer Institute: Creativity in the Language Classroom
I believe Creativity in the Language Classroom would greatly benefit my instruction and my students' learning. I am a licensed teacher with a general elementary education background. After teaching English as a second language in Taiwan and two years in a Montessori school back in Minnesota, I found my current position as an ELD teacher at a public charter school. While I feel at home in my current role, I lack expertise in encouraging creativity and maintaining student engagement in a school where 81% of students receive EL services and a co-teaching push-in model. This institute will provide an opportunity to fill gaps in my knowledge and skills, ensuring a positive learning environment for all, especially those with diverse linguistic backgrounds and needs. By the end of this program, I look forward to being able to effectively incorporate targeted language functions, forms, and vocabulary to stimulate creativity in my students. I’m also excited to be able to develop collaborative language lessons that incorporate a range of kinesthetic, auditory, visual, and tactile tools to cater to the diverse needs of my students.

Proposed Project: To follow-up the summer institute on Creativity in the Language Classroom I hope to have a new and improved “tool-box” of ideas. My proposed project would be a dual project aimed at enhancing both our EL newcomer units and our 2nd grade ELA curriculum. After my first year in this position, I’m in a good place to now take a step forward and incorporate more creativity within both areas. Building on topics such as fossils and pollinators in 2nd grade ELA, and common school supplies and places in the school with my newcomers, I am committed to making these topics become more immersive learning experiences. Through the integration of music, tactile learning, visual tools and technology, I aim to give new life into these topics, further promoting deeper engagement and understanding among our diverse student population. By collaborating with my 2nd grade team and the ELD teachers, I hope to share these researched based ideas and collectively improve our students’ learning experiences. Ultimately, my intention is to empower students with a sense of confidence, belonging, and cultural pride. By providing opportunities for expression and participation, I believe we can create a classroom environment where every student feels valued and encouraged to contribute.
Cathy Vang
New Millennium Academy, Brooklyn Center
Academic Coach K-8, Hmong
CARLA Summer Institute: Content-Based Language Instruction and Curriculum Development
I am a first-year Hmong Academic Coach supporting a team of Hmong educators in teaching the Hmong Culture and Language. As a coach and educator, I must teach myself to understand the standards and content and how to implement strategies and frameworks to support my team.

The Hmong program I support daily is a FLEX/FLEX program, in which we see our scholars weekly for 45 minutes. With the given time, I want to provide a research-based instruction framework that maximizes learning and allows cultural authenticity. Our school still needs to have a curriculum to support our teachers in successfully providing instructions to maximize learning. My goal is to use content-based language instruction to design a curriculum that can be used daily in our Hmong Program and implemented in our afterschool program to create deeper meaning, practices, and experiences that support our scholars.

Proposed Project: Our current middle school curriculum has a unit in which we teach about the Hmong Instruments. We have a scope and sequence of what to teach but need a solid lesson plan to teach this lesson meaningfully and effectively. I want to create one of the unit lessons to support our middle school thematic unit on the Hmong instrument. A specific lesson unit on the Hmong Instrument, the "Qeej." The Qeej instrument is known to many of our scholars, family, and community. However, we must provide a more profound knowledge of using this instrument and its importance to the Hmong culture.

To implement this in the classroom and our after-school program, I would like to create a unit plan that would allow the educator to convey this instrument's beauty successfully. For example, there needs to be a setup to build on background history, examining the instrument such as materials used, the sound of this instrument, basics of how to play it, and how it is used at different events. The Qeej instrument is used for different occasions in the Hmong community (Hmong New Year, communication, and funerals). Scholars should be educated on the beauty of the sounds it makes, the language it can produce, the methods to use this instrument and the meaning of showcasing and playing these songs. However, to share this message, it is essential to create a structure and build-up that would allow scholars to see the full potential of this instrument. Therefore, I plan to use this example to support my learning and create more creative lessons to increase the Hmong language's development through teaching content.

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