Teacher Voices: Laurie Hahn Ganser

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Laurie Hahn Ganser, Lanier High School, Austin, Texas, Age: 28, Years of teaching: 4
When I asked about differentiation or scaffolding for students who didn’t come to the table with‘average’ grade-level background knowledge, everyone looked at me like a crazy person.

Laurie Hahn Ganser, an English teacher for 9th and 10th graders, recalls a teacher-training session that was a disaster.

The teacher works in a school where 600 of the 1,470 students are English-language learners.

She remembers that the leaders of that professional-development session had no experience working with reluctant learners or ELLs.

"When I asked about differentiation or scaffolding for students who didn't come to the table with 'average' grade-level background knowledge, everyone looked at me like a crazy person," she wrote in an e-mail. She said it was frustrating not to receive any suggestions for working with high-needs students.

Ms. Ganser has had a positive experience, however, with Quality Teaching for English-Learners, or QTEL, a professional-development program created by WestEd. She has attended two weeklong sessions with the program and been part of a leadership team for the three school years it has been implemented at Lanier High.

QTEL aims to train regular content teachers and ELL specialists in how to better engage English-learners in schooling. It focuses on preparing teachers to provide scaffolding, or supports for such students in the classroom. The philosophy behind the program is that language is learned best in a social context.

Ms. Ganser says she appreciates how QTEL taught her concrete strategies based on research.

"I loved the QTEL professional development because I left feeling like I had specific scaffolding exercises that I could apply in my classroom immediately," she said, "and I believed in the sociocultural theory behind the training."

— Mary Ann Zehr

Vol. 30, Issue 11, Page S18

Published in Print: November 8, 2010, as Teacher Voices: Laurie Hahn Ganser
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