Teachers are the most important in-school influence on student achievement. It’s the teachers who remain intellectually curious and make a difference in a student’s life, both inside and outside the classroom. These teachers avoid stagnation at all costs and maintain an enviable passion for children and the learning process. They remain vivid in the students’ memories forever because of their creativity, sense of fun and compassion.

First grade teacher and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) coordinator Shelly Ruderman is one out of many teachers at Southwark that fits that mold.

“I’ve been at Southwark for 23 years and I love being a part of this school and teaching the students,” Ruderman said. “We really have a great staff and a conducive environment for learning. We are making sure that the students get the best opportunities here.”

Southwark is known for its diversity. The school has 580 students and 50 percent of those students are English Language Learners. There are also 14 different languages spoken in students’ homes. Ruderman helps first-grade students learn English and other skills through the ESOL program.

“We have a very high population of non-native speakers of English at Southwark,” Ruderman said. “Our ESOL program has the largest population and model program for the city. To help aid with communication with the parents we have bilingual counseling assistants. They work very closely with the school counselor and with the classroom teachers.

“The bilingual counseling assistants are in the building to interpret and help us communicate with the kids also; they are really terrific,” she added. “We also have six ESOL teachers that work with students on all grade levels from k-8. The objective of ESOL instruction is to get the students comfortable in the mainstream classrooms.

“There are cases where students may come from a refugee camp and they may not have been in school. Because of that, those students may be in the program a little bit longer. But we’re really aiming to give them the foundation that they need to function in the mainstream classroom, so that they can have access to the same education as everyone else gets. We want to lay the groundwork for them, so that they will be able to exit the program and excel in the classroom and beyond.”

The majority of the teachers at Southwark have ESOL certification.

“A lot of the teachers have ESOL certification, especially the math and art teachers” Ruderman said. “The teachers who aren’t ESOL teachers are still certified in ESOL. With most teachers, we try to have a content objective and a language objective. Because we have such a high population of students who are English Language Learners, the ESOL students are in every classroom. The program itself really works out really well at Southwark.”

Students in Ruderman’s first grade ESOL class are working on their listening, speaking, reading and writing skills.

“We typically do literacy in the morning, so we pull the kids out their home room for 120 minutes,” Ruderman said. “The class is pretty much the whole morning. The students learn knew vocabulary and how to use it in a sentence. The students are currently learning about wants and needs. What they need to [live] vs. what they want.”

First-grader Ana Martinez likes having Mrs. Ruderman as her teacher.

“Mrs. Ruderman is very nice,” Martinez said. She always teaches us fun things to do. Right now we’re learning about what we want vs. what we need. Love, food, water and [a] house are things we all need. Toys, animals, games and computers are some things we want. I really like being in this class and having her as my teacher.”

For first-grader Ivan Ivguyen said being in Mrs. Ruderman class is a great learning experience.

“I learned a lot from her,” said Ivguyen. “I’m speaking better and doing my work better. She really helped me a lot. I’m happy that I have her as my teacher.”


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