Supporting English Language Learners through Literature


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At WBSD, approximately 10% of our students are English language learners. To help support this population, we have several English language teachers in our schools working directly with students. One of these teachers is Maryna Hedeen, who serves students in kindergarten through seventh grade at Bates Elementary School and Brownstown Middle School.

An immigrant from Ukraine, Mrs. Hedeen knows from personal experience that learning a new language can be difficult.  Many of her students are new to the United States and find themselves surrounded by unfamiliar people and situations, which makes learning English even more challenging.

English language learners in schools must advocate for themselves quickly. Not only are they navigating a new culture and language, but they are also often filling out their own paperwork, scheduling meetings and serving as translators between their school and parents, who many times are on their own journey to learning English. Knowing these unique challenges, Mrs. Hedeen works extra hard to ensure that her students feel welcome and inspired at school.

Mrs. Hedeen began learning English at 10 years old when she lived in Ukraine. Her love of the language inspired her to earn a bachelor’s degree in teaching English from the Vinnitsya State Pedagogical University in Ukraine, and then a master’s degree in teaching English as a second language and applied linguistics from the University of Northern Iowa in the United States. Mrs. Hedeen’s experience learning English as a second language and immigrating to the United States gives her a unique perspective and a way to connect with her students. She understands their challenges, and because of this, she teaches with empathy and compassion.

One of the ways Mrs. Hedeen connects with her students is by reading books pertaining to their cultures, using translation apps to have conversations with parents and taking the time to introduce the nuances of living in the United States and Michigan to her students. This year, her third-grade students are creating a handmade book about Michigan. To create their books, her students are learning about Michigan cities, the Great Lakes and popular products made in Michigan. All of this is done with the goal of helping her students master the academic content of the social studies unit on Michigan, along with helping them learn English and become acquainted with their new home state.