134 episodes

On the Highest Aspirations Podcast, we engage in important conversations about the most rapidly growing student demographic in the United States - English Language Learners. We speak with educators and students, researchers and policy makers, and parents and community members about how we can help all students reach their highest aspirations.

Join us on this important journey as we bring the vibrant ELL Community together around the topics that matter most to the students we serve.

Highest Aspirations Ellevation Education

    • Education
    • 5.0 • 17 Ratings

On the Highest Aspirations Podcast, we engage in important conversations about the most rapidly growing student demographic in the United States - English Language Learners. We speak with educators and students, researchers and policy makers, and parents and community members about how we can help all students reach their highest aspirations.

Join us on this important journey as we bring the vibrant ELL Community together around the topics that matter most to the students we serve.

    "A Radical Approach" to Family and Community Engagement with Babatunji Ifarinu and Stephanie Brown-Bryant

    "A Radical Approach" to Family and Community Engagement with Babatunji Ifarinu and Stephanie Brown-Bryant

    How many times have you heard the expression “take an asset based approach to EL education”? We’ve certainly used the term on many occasions here on Highest Aspirations.  But what does it really mean and what might we learn from school leaders working in Clarkston, GA - a community that has been called “the most diverse mile in America” and “the Ellis Island of the South”? How does a “radical approach” to family and community engagement enhance outcomes for students in diverse communities?

    We discuss these questions and much more in our conversation with Assistant Principal Babatunji Ifarinu and Principal Stephanie Brown-Bryant from Indian Creek Elementary School in Clarkston, Georgia - a highly diverse community just outside of Atlanta. 

    As always, we are committed to keeping you informed and inspired with resources to help you support your English learners. If you’d like to find more information or contribute to this series, go to ellevationeducation.com/ellcommunity.

    You can subscribe to Highest Aspirations wherever you listen to podcasts so you know when new episodes are released. As always, thanks for listening. Stay safe and take care of each other.

    Guest Bios

    Babatunji Ifarinu is the Assistant Principal at Indian Creek Elementary School. He has been working with a wide variety of students since 1997. He was formerly a sheltered social studies teacher in which he delivered instruction to immigrant and refugee students. 

    He was also an ESOL Academic Data Coach at a Middle School that has a student population that is more than a third English language learners.

    As an ELL Success Facilitator in one of the largest and most diverse school district in Georgia, he has facilitated workshops to improve instruction for culturally and linguistically diverse students. His workshops and seminars have been delivered at the district level and at local schools. Tunji provides energetic professional learning sessions that leaves participants with practical and tactical strategies for facilitating success for students.

    As an ELL Success Facilitator in one of the largest and most diverse school district in Georgia, he has facilitated workshops to improve instruction for culturally and linguistically diverse students. His workshops and seminars have been delivered at the district level and at local schools. Tunji provides energetic professional learning sessions that leaves participants with practical and tactical strategies for facilitating success for students.

    Stephanie Brown-Bryant has served as an educator for 25 years.  Currently, Mrs. Brown-Bryant is the Principal at Indian Creek Elementary in Clarkston, Georgia.  She was raised in Camilla, Georgia where she graduated from Mitchell-Baker High School went on to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in Middle Grades Education from Valdosta State University.  Her passion for lifelong learning led her to earn two computer science degrees, certifications in leadership and teacher support as well as her gifted endorsement.  Additionally, she is a doctoral candidate at Piedmont College with STEM as her content focus. Mrs. Brown-Bryant balances her life with her husband of more than 20 years and two teenage sons.

    Her diverse instructional experiences include more than 20 years of service in the DeKalb County School District.  Her leadership at Indian Creek Elementary prepares approximately 1000 students to be College and Career Ready through enriching and engaging educational opportunities.  Mrs. Brown-Bryant believes education removes barriers and provides hope.  It is a privilege to help build our future and a nurturing, quality education for our students is the best investment one can give!


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    • 53 min
    A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction with Rachel Ruffalo, Malane Morales-Van Hecke and José Franco

    A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction with Rachel Ruffalo, Malane Morales-Van Hecke and José Franco

    How might we make math instruction more equitable for all students? Why is it so important for educators to recognize how their biases and beliefs affect their ability to deliver equitable instruction to English learners? How might we infuse language and culture into existing curriculum so they are a part of content instruction rather than a separate element?

    We discuss these questions and much more with Rachel Ruffalo, Malane Morales-Van Hecke and José Franco, who all played important roles in developing A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction, which provides resources and guidance to support Black, LatinX and Multilingual students. The Pathway offers guidance and resources for educators to use now as they plan their curriculum, while also offering opportunities for ongoing self-reflection as they seek to develop an anti-racist math practice. The toolkit “strides” serve as multiple on-ramps for educators as they navigate the individual and collective journey from equity to anti-racism.

    Rachel Ruffalo is the Director of Educator Engagement at Ed Trust-West, where she leads engagements with school districts through a multi-year process that involves a mixed-methods research study to identify opportunity gaps and systemic inequities and a closely facilitated planning process to develop actions that address the root causes of the inequities.

    Malane Morales-Van Hecke is a Program Coordinator for the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s Multilingual Academic Support Unit in the Curriculum and Instruction Division. She currently works with the MAS Unit team providing technical assistance and professional development in support of Los Angeles county’s districts and charter schools as part of the county office and state-wide systems of support.

    José Franco serves as Director of WestEd’s Math Pathways & Pitfalls, which focuses on enriching students’ mathematical comprehension and academic language development in tandem. He advocates for teachers to orchestrate mathematics discussions that enhance student voice and identity.

    As always, we are committed to keeping you informed and inspired with resources to help you support your English learners. If you’d like to find more information or contribute to this series, go to ellevationeducation.com/ellcommunity.

    You can subscribe to Highest Aspirations wherever you listen to podcasts so you know when new episodes are released. 


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    • 55 min
    Encore Episode: Using Project Based Learning Strategies to Reach English Learners with Elizabeth Leone

    Encore Episode: Using Project Based Learning Strategies to Reach English Learners with Elizabeth Leone

    As schools rapidly shift from in-person, hybrid and fully remote instructional settings, there has been a renewed interest in adopting project based learning (PBL) strategies to keep students engaged through all the changes. To address this topic, we have re-released our interview with Elizabeth Leone, a passionate advocate for English learners and expert practitioner of PBL in highly diverse classes. Whether you are looking to incorporate small elements of PBL or you are hoping to go all in, this interview will help get you started.

    How does project based learning support the diverse language skills of English learners? What is the sustained inquiry process and how can it serve as a first step toward increased student communication and collaboration? How can project based learning enhance cultural responsiveness and help support English learners as assets to our school communities?

    We discuss these questions and much more with Elizabeth Leone. Elizabeth is an ESL teacher and Project-based Learning (PBL) coach in Manchester, New Hampshire. She teaches in a sheltered instructional settings for newcomers from all over the world. She completed her Masters in TESOL and her undergraduate studies in Elementary Education. Elizabeth is passionate about making learning more equitable and attainable for all students, especially those with limited or interrupted formal education (SLIFE). She uses project-based learning as a way to meet learners where they are with their language skills and rapidly streamline their education to get them into mainstream classes. Using PBL strategies, she is able to simultaneously work on language acquisition, content education, and 21st century skills in a way that keeps them motivated to learn.

    If you would like to know more about PBL for ESL, feel free to contact Elizabeth by email at eleone@mansd.org or follow her class blog on Instagram @ms.leone.ell.squad


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    • 45 min
    "In This Together" Panel Discussion

    "In This Together" Panel Discussion

    This episode is the culmination of our “In This Together” docuseries, where we follow 5 EL program directors from around the country to explore the challenges they face and how they’re overcoming them. Listen as our 5 panelists discuss how they are supporting their English learners in remote, hybrid and face to settings, what they are planning for the second half of the school year, how they are taking advantage of silver linings they’ve uncovered along the way and more.

    As always, we are committed to keeping you informed and inspired with resources to help you support your English learners. If you’d like to find more information or contribute to this series, check out our ELL Community page at ellevationeducation.com/ellcommunity.

    Remember you can subscribe to Highest Aspirations wherever you listen to podcasts so you know when new episodes are released. Also please consider leaving us a review on Apple podcasts - this helps us get the word out about this free resource for educators.


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    • 59 min
    Assessing Student Progress and Differentiating for Success with Vicky Saldala and Melissa Cabrera

    Assessing Student Progress and Differentiating for Success with Vicky Saldala and Melissa Cabrera

    What are some ways to address the challenge of differentiating for a wide variety of learners in both language learning and content mastery as we shift between in remote, hybrid and face to face instructional settings? How might we go about measuring student progress over the course of this academic year and what data should we be examining to ensure equitable access to instruction moving forward? How can we keep English learners motivated to learn in such rapidly evolving educational environments? We discuss these questions and much more in our fourth episode with ESOL Director Vicky Saldala and Cooper City High School Literacy Coach Melissa Cabrera from Broward County Public Schools in Florida.

    This episode is part of our "In This Together" docuseries, where we follow the triumphs and challenges of a cross section of EL program directors as they strive to deliver equitable experiences for students this school year.

    You can find all episodes (video and audio) on our "In This Together" channel. You can also find free tools to help ensure your English learners and their families receive equitable access to instruction and services on our Equity in Action page.


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    • 44 min
    Balancing Logistics and Best Practices with Juan Corona, Director of English Learners at Maywood District 89, IL

    Balancing Logistics and Best Practices with Juan Corona, Director of English Learners at Maywood District 89, IL

    How are EL students and their teachers doing now that the back to school season has transitioned into what is normally a very busy time of the year? What can EL educators do to prepare for upcoming state assessments? How is collaboration between EL Specialists and content teachers evolving as schools begin to assess student progress since the start of the school year? 

    We discuss these questions and much more in our latest conversation with Juan Corona, Director of English Learners at Maywood District 89, just outside of Chicago, IL. This episode is part of our "In This Together" docuseries, where we follow the triumphs and challenges of a cross section of EL program directors as they strive to deliver equitable experiences for students this school year.

    You can find all episodes (video and audio) on our "In This Together" channel. You can also find free tools to help ensure your English learners and their families receive equitable access to instruction and services on our Equity in Action page.


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    • 33 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
17 Ratings

17 Ratings

Learner07 ,

Highest Aspirations

Great podcast! The subjects/topics discussed are relevant, and the host has a passion for ELs and it reflects over the sound waves. Always a pleasure to listen to them and learn new things!

Kbiz12425784 ,

In Depth Look at EL Education

This podcast takes a thoughtful look at K-12 issues in EL education. I appreciate how well this podcast frames issues from an evidence-based, equity-focused lens.

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