GATESOL Newsletter

Winter 2021 Issue


In this issue we recognize our 2020-2021 awardees, include a video from our President, Jennifer Pendergrass, share online teaching suggestions and tools from our readership, and much, much more. Enjoy!

For the newsletter it is our goal to make our newsletter a place for dialogue and where we share, celebrate, and highlight the wonderful work we are all doing.

Interested contributors should follow these guidelines and contact our 2021-22 newsletter editor Lou Tolosa-Casadont at

We look forward to hearing from all of you!

Winter 2021 Newsletter President's Message

Celebrating Our 2020-2021 TOTY and SOTY

Our inspirations come from a variety of sources. Sometimes we meet someone or read something that inspires us to be a better version of ourselves and others we see something in our universe that helps us feel uplifted and grateful for what we have and for who we are. In this piece you will be inspired by two women who share their sources of inspiration. Please meet Claudia Martínez, the 2020-2021 GATESOL Teacher of the Year (TOTY) and Lluvianet Ríos, the 2020-2021 GATESOL Student of the Year (SOTY).

For Claudia, her inspiration came from her own personal experiences and led her to become an ESOL teacher. She identifies as a woman of color whose past as an immigrant, first generation EL, and migrant student informs the way she lives her life, sees and understands the world. Claudia positions herself as an advocate for culturally and linguistically diverse students and their families and communities because she understands the obstacles they meet daily and empathizes with their struggles. In our interview she mentioned that: “Being a first generation immigrant and student allowed [her] to see things differently” - see things differently from others who may have not had the experiences immigrant first generation English Learners and migrant learners might go through. Growing up, Claudia “didn’t know anybody that looked like [her] who was a leader in [her] community.” This experience motivated her to finish high-school and go to college and also to become deeply religious, which is where she finds strength in the face of immigrant struggle. Her passion for teaching, learning, and making a difference in the lives of other people has given her the energy and drive to not “give up because [her] students need [her]” and because “[t]here is still a lot of work that needs to be done in [her] school, community, and world.” Claudia wants to use her personal story to create positive change and inspire others. One way in which she does so is by teaching educators about the immigrant struggle and sharing strategies she implements in her teaching. When asked to think of one word that defines her career as an ESOL teacher she said “perseverance” and continued to explain that she has “experienced so many inequities and hardships that [she has] chosen to not let anything stop [her].” We are inspired by Claudia and her strong commitment to teaching and learning and her belief that “all students have the right for an equal and rich education” and that “every child can learn.” Claudia, thank you for inspiring us with your words and actions. Onward!

In 2020-2021 the GATESOL SOTY, an award that recognizes and highlights the inspirational life stories of English Learners, was awarded to Lluvianet Ríos a tenth grader at Shiloh High School. Lluvia, as she likes to be called, moved to the United States from Mexico by herself and left behind her parents and seven siblings to follow her dreams, which are to receive an uninterrupted education in the United States and fulfill her long-life desire of becoming a family doctor. She came to Georgia in 2019 to live with her aunt and uncle and was uplifted and motivated by the opportunities and the support she received from peers, teachers, and community members. Her church, which is a big part of her life, is also an important source of strength, guidance, and reaffirmation. This amazing young woman speaks Spanish (her mother tongue and favorite language) and is learning English, a language she values greatly and wishes to improve and master as she continues her studies in the United States. Lluvia speaks both languages at home, school, and work and appreciates the freedom to translanguage as she becomes stronger in English and while teachers like Ms. Loaisiga, who nominated Lluvia for this award, support and guide her. Although she misses her family profoundly, she is grateful for the opportunities she has had as a student in Georgia. She dedicates her non-school and working hours to her studies and homework, which she pours over with dedication and great passion because she believes and has begun to experience that knowledge is the key to her future success. We are moved by Lluvia’s determination and passion and look forward to watching her grow and reach her personal and educational lifelong goals. Best wishes to you, Lluvia and much success!


More Celebrations! The attendees of the 2020 Conference voted for the best sessions of the conference. We have a winner for best featured speaker and best breakout session. Thanks to all who participated of this event and congratulations to the awardees!

What are our teachers saying?

Advice from our Teachers

Thanks to those who completed the "Teacher Survey" sent out in January! Here's what we learned from your responses:

1. Start class with a pre-established warm-up activity that will employ the first 10 minutes of class so latecomers can join in and slide right into their first activity of the day. Those who arrive later than 10 minutes, complete these assignments for homework (Jodi Bolgla).

2. Model your thinking process and present examples of finished work as you introduce assignments and tasks to learners (Roxanne Stewart).

3. Make an extra effort to create community. Connect with all students daily. Communicate often with learners and families/caretakers (Judy Young).

4. Laugh hard and laugh often (with your students)! (Roxanne Stewart).


As we continue to navigate virtual, hyflex, and face-to-face teaching models, we reached out to you to share your favorite tools.

Oral Practice, Engagement, & Community-Building Tool:

Flipgrid - Is a recording tool for all ages and language levels. Learners record themselves talking and peers and instructors respond. The interaction is not synchronous but it is a wonderful tool to document learner's oral growth and progress.

Listening/Reading Comprehension Tool:

Edpuzzle - Is a self-paced video based learning platform where learners view a video (and read captions) and respond to teacher created questions. Teachers can used self-created videos or videos downloaded from internet.

Writing Tool:

Book creator - Is much more than just a book creator! Learners can use their own pictures and favorite music to individually or collaboratively create e-books to share with classmates and families. There is a free version that allows teachers to create up to 40 books whereas the premium version provides unlimited opportunities to create, collaborate, write, edit, and share.

Reading Comprehension:

English E-Reader - Contains a library of books in English from levels A-C based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CERF). Learners and educators can search for books by reading levels, genres, series, and keywords. Additionally, they can create their own libraries, track their books, and create a list of favorites.

GATESOL Interest Sections

Join us in our newly created Interest Sections message boards and share your experiences, needs, and questions.

Two FREE Virtual Events from our Interest Sections

On February 15, 2021 from 5:00-6:00 pm the GATESOL Adult Education Interest Section is hosting a virtual event. Featured speaker, Shawn Slakk will present on Workplace Literacy. Teach, Apply, & Practice (TAP) provides strategies to teach, apply, and practice workplace vocabulary, reading, and writing within the text of target professions. Free registration is open now at

Also in February, on Sunday, February 28, 2021 from 1:00-2:30 p.m., the GATESOL Bilingual Education and Social Responsibility Interest Groups will host a joint virtual session on the subject of advocacy. Please mark your calendars for this informative and exciting session. Free registration is now open at

We look forward to seeing you at both events! Please share these wonderful opportunities widely. Thank you for your support!

About the Editor

Dr. Lou Tolosa-Casadont is a TESOL & World Language Education Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Language & Literacy Education at the University of Georgia. She teaches courses ranging from teaching methods to curriculum design courses. She works closely with TESOL and World Language Education in-service and pre-service teachers in the teacher preparation program in her department as well as other master's and doctoral students. Dr. Tolosa-Casadont enjoys mentoring inservice and pre-service teachers, collaborating with TESOL and World Language Educators, and facilitating professional development events, presenting at conferences, and serving the TESOL, TFL, and World Language communities in the U.S. and abroad.

She'd LOVE to hear from you. Please connect with her via