Helping English Language Learners Achieve Success in High School

 
By Pamela Sonmor-Wintz
Wisconsin School Counseling Association
Secondary Vice President

Secondary School Counselors help English Language Learners achieve success in high school in a variety of ways. They recognize that each student possesses talent, special abilities, unique interests, and goals that will lead to many future opportunities. They collaborate with students, parents, educational professionals, and the community to ensure that all students develop an individualized learning plan and career path that reflects their interests, abilities and goals. They recognize and distinguish individual and group differences and strive to value all students and groups equally. Secondary School Counselors serve on Leadership teams where decisions about curriculum are made and advocate for the unique educational needs of ELL students. Professional Secondary School Counselors support opportunities and services that promote success for all students regardless of cultural backgrounds and strive to remove barriers that impede student success. Secondary School Counselors in Wisconsin do all of these things and play a key role in the success of these very special students.

English Language Learners face many challenges in high school and sometimes experience conflict and social problems. School Counselors understand the complexities involved in the educational setting for ELL students and coordinate individual and small group social/emotional counseling designed to promote and maintain healthy relationships and peaceful problem solving within the school community. School Counselors recognize the need for all students to attend school in a safe, orderly and caring environment and provide leadership emphasizing prevention and intervention related to violence, weapons and gangs. Through conflict resolution programs, students learn skills that maximize their potential for reaching personal goals and success in school. School Counselors help students see the similarities between people and help young people accept differences and view cultural diversity as a strength. Teaching young people the importance of empathy, understanding, and respect for diversity promotes peace and can change the world.

Working with English Language Learners at Whitewater High School has been a very rewarding experience for me. I have found ELL students to be some of the most respectful, appreciative, and determined students I have worked with. Encouraging students to have high expectations for their achievement, getting them involved in pre-college programs such as Talent Search and Upward Bound, and finding scholarship opportunities that help support post-secondary goals and career dreams are just some of the things high school counselors do to help ELL students achieve their dreams. Working with a team of caring educators and administrators in Whitewater, I have had the privilege of watching ELL students overcome challenges, accomplish their educational goals, and become the first generation in their family to attend college. What a joy it is to be part of a professional team of educators that care and help so many deserving young people achieve their dreams and accomplish their goals! My great grandparents came to this country as English Language Learners and my mother spoke Norwegian at home until she started country school in Minnesota in the early 1940s. How appreciative we are for the educators who helped our own family members learn English and experience success in school in this country! School Counselors play a significant role in the education of English Language Learners in high school and have a profound impact on the success of these very special students. WE CAN change the world!