Colorado ESL Teacher Wins Virginia French Allen Award

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Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

Leticia Ingram, who teaches at Basalt High School in Colorado, will be awarded the Virginia French Allen Award for Excellence in Teaching next month, in recognition for her work as an ESL teacher.

Ingram, who is from Texas, is the coordinator of the English Language Development program at the school, and she works mainly with the Latino students, whose numbers are growing steadily.

She began her career by studying religious studies and comparative cultures and then went on to earn another Master’s degree in English as a Second Language.

Most of the kids she teaches have come from El Salvador or Mexico and in many cases they are the only people in their homes who can speak English. In fact many of them have to translate for their parents and other family members.

Ingram has a particular style of teaching that combines her natural energy with a friendly relationship with the kids. The whole class is in English, including the information on the classroom walls, which provides the students with a total immersion situation, thought to be vital for ESL teaching. She will only use Spanish if strictly necessary to explain something important.

But Ingram does not just restrict the studies to the classroom, as they have been on several field trips, where again, only English is spoken. In addition she has arranged a traditional American Thanksgiving meal for both the students and their families. Additionally, during this school year alone, she has visited the kids in their homes over 120 times in order to meet with their parents. For a Latino family it is usually a great honor for a teacher to come to the home of a student, reinforcing the idea that they can go on to have great achievements.

Ingram will be presented with her award next month at the convention of Colorado Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages in Denver, and when asked how she felt about the achievement, she simply reiterated her pride in her students and her hopes for their future success.