New District 65 bilingual/ESL director hopes to expand support


(Daily file photo by Sara Gnolek)

Orrington Elementary School, 2636 Orrington Ave., is one of 10 elementary schools in Evanston/Skokie School District 65. Amy Correa, the district’s new bilingual/ESL program director, hopes to expand supports across schools.

Rishika Dugyala, City Editor

As an immigrant from Cuba, Amy Correa said she was stuck in a “sink or swim” situation when she moved to the United States as a child for her education.

Her difficult experience navigating the American school system inspired Correa to help other non-native English speakers. After spending the last 24 years as a Chicago Public Schools teacher, the Skokie native decided to shift closer to home

This school year, Correa became Evanston/Skokie School District 65’s bilingual/ESL program director — a position that oversees language programs and provides professional development for faculty.

“I took the job here because they really are focused on equity,” Correa said. “They’re really putting their money where their mouth is in terms of who they are hiring, how they are hiring and who’s sitting in front of the children.”

Six weeks into the job, Correa said she already has some personal goals like expanding ESL support so every school in the district has a program.

She said the district’s demographics are changing due to a steadily increasing population of non-native English speakers. According to the district’s website, District 65 serves students who speak nearly 70 different languages, including Spanish, Mandarin, French, Swahili and Arabic.

However, Correa said, only six out of 18 schools have ESL programs, something she hopes to change should the district provide additional funding.

“Personally, as an immigrant, if I can’t go to my neighborhood school because it’s not offering ESL, and I already feel left out, well now I have to make friends at a new school,” Correa said. “That’s hard because I have to travel back and forth between different neighborhoods.”

Regarding official district goals, Correa said she is working with National Louis University — with which she also partnered while in the CPS system — to develop a cohort of District 65 teachers willing to go through ESL training. So far, she said, 12 teachers have expressed interest.

She is also helping the administration expand its Two-Way Immersion program, in which students learn Spanish and English along with corresponding cultures. The district currently has five K-5 TWI programs and TWI-like classes offered in three middle schools.

“It is my personal goal that all students have access and equity to the opportunity to reach mastery of standard, academic English,” Correa told The Daily in an email. “It is with this mastery that all English learners will have the same academic and social-economic opportunities that their English-speaking counterparts experience.”

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