ELL sees its numbers decrease, program shifts to local high schools

By Erick Yanzon

The ELL (English Language Learners) program is shrinking this school year. There are just 43 ELL students at MTHS this year, compared to nearly 100 from last year. The program has begun to slowly dissolve because most of the last year’s ninth graders are now at Edmonds-Woodway High School.

The district wanted all ELL students to attend their home school, which resulted in the opening of a new ELL program at Meadowdale High School. The reasoning is that students attending their respective home school will experience a better transition from middle school to high school.

Michelle Tessier, who has been an ELL teacher in MTHS for 12 years, will be teaching beginning, intermediate and advanced ELL at Meadowdale H.S. At MTHS, she will be teaching advanced ELL for 5th period and English 9 for 6th period. Her advisory students at MTHS are going to be assigned to a different teacher. Because Meadowdale H.S. has block classes, Tessier will be teaching 1st and 3rd period on Mondays and Wednesdays. Her 2nd period class will be used to assist the mainstream teachers on how to work with ELL students. Meadowdale students will not have ELL support on Tuesdays and Thursdays and will not have the opportunity to see someone about non-ELL specific issues on those days. They will also have to mix beginner and intermediate students, because there are not enough students to form a single class.

“It’s almost not a program anymore, it’s almost getting to be classes because we can’t offer all the things that we used to offer,” Tessier said. Betsy Zeifman, who has been teaching ELL since early 1980s, will be a part-time teacher for ELL History, Beginning ELL and Senior COE ELL at MTHS.

Zeifman is a 0.8 FTE (full time equivalent) at Terrace, making her one class shy of being a full-time teacher. She is taking sick leave for 0.2 FTE so that Tessier could still be at MTHS for 0.2 FTE. “I think when you have more people, it’s more dynamic. I’m very sad that Mrs. Tessier is not here with me because I think we make a great team and we can offer the students a lot more,” Zeifman said. “I just think team teaching is just a lot stronger than being by yourself and I think the students network better when there are more of them.” At one point, the program had students from 30 different countries. “That’s the great thing about being an ELL teacher, you learn as much as the students do because you learn about their cultures and their perspective. It adds a lot of vitality in the classroom,” Zeifman said.

Tessier thinks that the program will continue to shrink in the coming years. She believes that both Edmonds-Woodway and Meadowdale will be close to a full time teacher, but neither of them will require more than two teachers. The number of ELL students who are in MTHS only amounts to one teacher. Many of the students have graduated and a third of them have transitioned out of ELL over the past years. “I’m going to miss Terrace. I love the community that was built here and how well teachers work with our community. We’ve had fabulous kids that I think really add to the dimension of what Mountlake Terrace is, and so I think it’s a loss for both the kids as well as for the staff,” Tessier said.