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Equity & Diversity

‘Leaders to Learn From’ Honoree Relates to Struggle That Long-Term ELLs Face

By Corey Mitchell — February 24, 2016 1 min read
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Education Week “Leaders to Learn From” honoree Michael Matsuda, superintendent of the Anaheim Union High School District, relates to the thousands of English-language learners in his southern California school district.

In a story and accompanying video, Matsuda shares the story of his parents, who were long-term English-learners.

“I have a real connection, not only with the immigrant journey, but the English language journey, and the journey of navigating through poverty,” Matsuda said. “I really am connected to our student population in that respect.”

Seventy years before he became superintendent of the district, Matsuda’s mother was a 14-year-old freshman at Anaheim High who was forced to leave school and live in internment camps along with thousands of other Japanese Americans. Matsuda’s father was detained at the same camp.

“Because their education was interrupted, their English and their Japanese was pretty weak,” Matsuda said in the video. “I think about my parents and their struggle on behalf of their kids when I interact with parents today.”

Matsuda’s district, home to more than 6,500 English-language-learner students, has earned statewide recognition for its work to educate ELLs.

“One of the key understandings about English-learners is understanding the difference between long-term English-learners and newcomer English-learners,” Matsuda says in the video. “The long- term English-earners are those students, who often were born here in the United States, but whose parents have a very low level of primary language acquisition.”

Since Matsuda took the helm, the district has trained many of its resources on helping long-term ELLs reach proficiency.

“What that means is really [giving] attention to their language development. Giving them opportunities in class in a very intentional way, every day, to speak and to write, so that they can start building their language and their context for English,” Matsuda says.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.