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Shobha Tejwani: English Language Learner (ELL) Educator of the Year

February 16, 2011

by Michael Utsumi (parent)

Shobha Tejwani - English Language Learner Educator of the Year

We deliver our children to their respective classrooms every day in the hopes that they will absorb their daily lessons, have the motivation to engage with their teachers and that they will complete their daily assignments. This cycle is repeated across the district and throughout the Tri-Valley on a regular basis.

But what if your child has special needs that require the skills of the school psychologist because of behavioral problems? What if English is not his native language? What if she suffers from a speech impediment? Largely, that responsibility falls to a small army of specialists working within the Dublin Unified School District.

On Saturday, January 29, Shobha Tejwani was recognized along with San Leandro teacher Elena Ball as the English Language Learner Educator of the Year by the Alameda County Board of Education. At the 2011 ceremony, held at CSU East Bay, seven individuals were honored for their current and legacy contributions to the county schools for their efforts in supporting this specific student population. Ms. Tejwani is a married mother of three boys. Respectively, they are enrolled at Chapman College, UC San Diego and Diablo Valley College. Academically, Shobha achieved her B.A. in Liberal Studies at CSU Northridge, a multi-subject curriculum certificate at CSU – East Bay and then she acquired an M.A. in Education at the same institution.

Shobha joined the Dublin Unified School District as a Specialist in January, 2000. Today, she supports four elementary school sites including: Murray, Dougherty, Green and Frederiksen on a rotating basis. In light of this recent honor, I had the opportunity to sit down with Ms. Tejwani to discuss her professional experiences and this recent honor.

We happened to discuss one specific Vietnamese third grade student that arrived at Murray Elementary this past September. She did not speak one word of English. While Shobha has multiple-site responsibilities, and benchmark testing is normal to evaluate all students impacted, she and the student’s teacher, Melinda Collins, realized that this student needed immediate attention. A plan was hatched in order to accelerate her learning curve. What was your approach to assisting this student who had such an urgent need?

Shobha Tejwani: “We quickly realized that we would need to assert an intervention right away. I made it a point to spend time with her at least two times per week.” What was your specific strategy?

Tejwani: “We’ve worked intensively with vocabulary books with pictures. We also utilized a Vietnamese-to-English Dictionary to help us find common ground. Though I do not speak Vietnamese, we were able to utilize pedagogical practices that moved us closer to achieving our goals. These are all researched-based strategies that have been proven to make great learning strides.” Now that we have reached early February, what progress have you made with her?

Tejwani: “Frankly, we have accomplished in five months what it might have taken me an entire year to achieve with some other students. She has been a willing partner and she is now on pace with the rest of her fellow students. We continue to read together as we refine her pronunciation of words. But, it’s been a remarkable progression in this relative short period of time. Fortunately, she’s not afraid to try.”

Carrie Nerheim - Murray Elementary School Principal

To round out this story, we sat down with Principal Ms. Carrie Nerheim of Murray Elementary School. Ms. Nerheim has had the unique perspective of working with Shobha as both a classroom teacher and as an Administrator. As Murray is a very unique site folding in multiple models, including the Pathways Program, we felt that she would be an excellent resource for this interview. How did this honor for Shobha come about?

Carrie Nerheim: “Green Elementary Principal Keith Nomura drove this initiative and took us through the nomination process. All site Principals that receive Ms. Tejwani’s support were on board and we all signed the nomination.” What is your confidence level that all of the students at Murray requiring ELL intervention are getting the support they need?

Nerheim: “1000 Percent! Shobha is one of those people that I would classify as irreplaceable – and I don’t say that about many people. We appreciate all of her contributions to our school site. In some ways she represents the bridge to our entire school culture as it relates to the sustainability of our programs.” Overall, what are your aspirations for your students?

Nerheim: “I want all of them to be scholarly in their thinking – regardless of what they choose to pursue. I want them to be thinkers for every situation that they encounter.” No doubt – Shobha is contributing towards this goal.

Related articles:

English Language Learner overview presentation at the Dublin Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting, Feb 8 2011:

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