Microcert Instructor, Brendaly Torres: The Question That Changed My Life

Brendaly Torres is currently an ENL teacher and instructional coach at East Bronx Academy for the Future, a small 6-12 public school in the Bronx.  After completing Teaching ELLs: A Literacy Instruction Toolkit," a New Visions MicroCert course, she went on to teach the course! Registration for our Spring 2018 MicroCert semester is now open. Check out Brendaly’s course, as well as the other course offerings and register now!

 

 

 

 

"Miss, tu háblas español?” That question was the one that changed the course of my future. 

Ten years ago, when I was working as an in-class math tutor, a student who had been in my class struggled for days to understand his assignments, because he didn’t speak English. He overheard me explaining something in Spanish to another student and excitedly approached me. “Miss, tu háblas español?”

I’m grateful that he was brave enough to ask me if I spoke Spanish. In an instant, I became his bridge, and my passion for a teaching career serving Multilingual Learners (ML) was born.

Coming from a Spanish-speaking household, language was my barrier too. At my Catholic school in Yonkers, there weren’t any language supports in place for a Puerto Rican and Dominican girl like me. I found a friend who spoke some Spanish and she became the bridge I so desperately needed. In fact, I excelled in math because it was the only subject that didn’t require me to speak English. The numbers were my haven, the place where I felt safe. All I’ve ever wanted is for my ML students to feel that safety, regardless of the subject.

I’ve been at East Bronx Academy for the Future for 11 years now. There, I work as an English as a New Language (ENL) specialist and a coach for another ENL teacher. My work is extremely rewarding. Not only do I get to work directly with ML students, both helping them in their core classes and teaching them in my ENL class, I get to work with other teachers, helping them to make their materials more accessible for Multilingual learners. 

Back in the summer of 2017, I had been looking for professional development opportunities and I came across a MicroCert course, entitled “Teaching ELLs: A Literacy Instruction Toolkit.”
 
Initially, I was drawn to the course because I saw that I could earn P-credits by completing the course. What I gained in the course was so much more than I bargained for.
 
I learned so many additional ways to support my ML students and my mentee teachers. Teaching methods like the “block party” or “silent graffiti” gave me ways to engage my students in deep, thoughtful conversations, which can be intimidating for students learning English.
 
The course was so helpful that it led me to take a few other Microcert courses, including, Culture, Race, Curriculum: Supporting the Academic Achievement and Positive Racial Identity of Urban Youth, and Supporting the Next Generation: Effective Mentoring and Coaching of Novice Teachers, which have also tremendously impacted my teaching and mentorship practices!


Just a few months later, I was offered the opportunity to teach the same course on “Teaching ELLs!” It was honestly the teaching and learning opportunity that I didn’t know I needed.

Knowing the impact that the ENL MicroCert course had on me made me extremely excited to teach the course. Even though this was my first time formally teaching adults, it felt great to be in an environment where I was not only teaching a subject I was passionate about, I was learning so much from the experiences of the other teachers in the room.

Being taught by a fellow teacher in my MicroCert courses was, no doubt, one of the best parts of my MicroCert experience. The instructors know exactly where we are coming from because they are teachers too. 

 
So, as the instructor, I could absolutely connect to the experiences that the teachers were sharing and I felt privileged to be able to share some of the things I’d learned over my 11 years in the classroom.  
 
One of the main points that I want the teachers in my classes to leave knowing is that it’s ok to not have all the answers. If we struggle it’s ok because our kids struggle too. How can we ask our students to be ok with being uncomfortable if we ourselves aren’t?

My MicroCert experiences have given me the tools I’ve needed to help work through some of my greatest challenges as a teacher and mentor. As I continue to grow as an educator, I’m grateful for the community of support that New Visions provides through MicroCert.

I’m not sure where my career will take me in the future, but I do know that my MicroCert experience has been a pivotal point in my career, reinforcing my passion and purpose for teaching multilingual students.

 
 

 

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