‘Teacher of the Week’ helping English language learners succeed

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Elementary students enrolled in New Hanover County Schools return to full-time, in-person learning on Monday.

For many students, doing schoolwork remotely these last several months hasn’t been easy.

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That’s especially true for English Language Learners (ELL), or students who are unable to communicate fluently in English. Most of these children are from non-English-speaking homes and backgrounds.

Tina Weldon has a number of these students in her first-grade class at College Park Elementary School.

Recently, WWAY received a ‘Teacher of the Week’ nomination which commended Weldon for going the extra mile with her students and going out of her way to help fellow teachers stay current with technology.

Weldon has a bachelor’s degree from Appalachian State University and a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She has taught 20 years including a few years in the Middle East.

“I went to Kuwait in 2013, and I taught there for two years and I taught one year in Saudi Arabia,” said Weldon.

Weldon’s experience teaching English as a Second Language, or ESL, to students overseas, has given her a better understanding about how to relate to transient students enrolled at College Park.

“I have taught ESL students before and that’s very helpful for me in our classroom because we have lots of ESL students also at our school,” Weldon said.

Trying to get students with little to no English-speaking skills to perform academically with their native English-speaking peers isn’t easy.

“They need a lot more one-on-one attention but it makes it difficult for the rest of the class as well,” she said.

During the pandemic, Weldon says ESL students have faced even more difficulty with remote learning than traditional students.

“They [ESL students] aren’t able to do the online days because they don’t understand how to do the online component at home,” Weldon said. “They’re only getting their instruction the days they come to school.”

Due to language barriers, Weldon says the parents of ESL students are often unable to troubleshoot problems that may arise at home with remote learning.

Weldon spends lots of time each day preparing lessons. Most days she works from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., but when she leaves school, her workday isn’t done.

“I do a lot of my video recording for my online students at home so I spend hours doing that type of thing after work because I can’t really record here because there’s a lot of distractions, the announcements and things come on or the phones ring or the bells ring so you can’t do a lot of it at school,” she said.

If she thinks a student lacks resources at home, she takes care of it at her own expense.

“If I know kids don’t have books at home, I’ll send my own books home with them to read,” she said. “I know they don’t have materials for the classroom, I will give them the materials that they need.”

Dr. Maria Madison is the principal of College Park which is a Title 1 school. This means at least 40-percent of the student population are from low-income families.

Madison says Weldon not only gives to her students, she also shares her technology expertise with fellow teachers.

“She actually led the way when we transformed to digital learning with her knowledge of Seasaw,” Madison said.

Seesaw is a classroom app used in more than 3 out of 4 schools in the United States to keep students connected with their lessons in class and with distance learning.

“She became an expert in the program and she helped other staff members with logging their students loading them in the digital platform,” Madison said.

Madison goes on to say that Weldon is a naturally-giving person.

“She has a calm spirit about her and she wears her heart on her sleeve,” Madison said. “She goes above and beyond for her students and she works very hard here at College Park and we appreciate her leadership.”

So, what does Weldon think about being named our ‘Teacher of the Week’?

“I feel very honored,” she said. “It makes me feel very good that someone is noticing the work that I’m doing.”

Click here if you would like to nominate someone for ‘Teacher of the Week.’ Each week’s winner receives a $100 gift card thanks to our partners, Down East Heating & Air Conditioning.