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Building Inclusive Elementary School Communities for ELLs
New Jersey's HELP Program Wins "Best Practices" Award

Judie Haynes Judie Haynes is the author and co-author of four books on helping classroom teachers with their second language population: "Newcomer Program Grades K-2," "Newcomer Program Grades 3-6," "Classroom Teacher's ESL Survival Kit #1" and "Classroom Teacher's ESL Survival Kit #2." She also co-authored a chapter in TESOL's "Integrating Standards into Classroom Practice." Ms. Haynes has taught elementary ESL for 22 years; the last 16 in River Edge, New Jersey. She is an active member of NJTESOL/NJBE and is currently editor of the NJTESOL/NJBE Voices, an affiliate newsletter. She is the Chair of the TESOL Elementary Interest Section. ESL MiniConference Online recently interviewed Judie Haynes after learning that the State of New Jersey had given special recognition to a program she developed. You can contact her at

The River Edge School District in River Edge, Bergen County, New Jersey, recently received a "Best Practices" Award from the New Jersey Department of Education, for a program called "HELP for English Language Learners," at Cherry Hill School and Roosevelt School. This award is presented to outstanding programs throughout state, and the River Edge schools were recognized in the category of "World Languages/Bilingual Education Programs." New Jersey Governor James E. McGreevey and Commissioner of Education William L. Librera honored River Edge and the other winners in a ceremony on June 7th. "New Jersey takes great pride in the innovation and commitment demonstrated by this year’s award winners," said Governor McGreevey in a message to the honorees. "These are the innovators and thinkers who help students develop and improve their skills, discover their interests and abilities, build their self esteem and confidence, and learn how to be productive citizens of the 21st century," added Commissioner Librera.

River Edge's HELP program, started 12 years ago by ESL teacher Judie Haynes, provides a broad, whole-district approach to support the education of linguistically and culturally diverse students, so that they can succeed in the school program and benefit fully from their educational experience. "The River Edge district believes that limited English proficient students need to be involved in learning not just during their ESL class, but during the entire school day," Ms. Haynes said in a recent ESL MiniConference interview. "If linguistically and culturally diverse students are to gain long-term personal, social, and academic success in the United States, their school community must be ready to help them become productive through a comprehensive, challenging, and enriching educational program in the mainstream learning environment--this cannot be done in isolation, but must be part of a coordinated district effort."

The HELP program presently includes 56 ESL students and 2 additional ESL teachers, Christine Gorman and Janet Arena. The objectives of the program, according to Judie Haynes, are:

· to provide strategies and information to classroom teachers so that they can meet the social, educational and affective needs of English language learners (ELLs);

· to plan effective English language instruction for ELLs as a part of a district-wide comprehensive effort which will help ESL students meet the NJ Core Curriculum Content Standards;

· to provide professional development for classroom teachers in second language acquisition and diverse cultures;

· to assure that students with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds have a positive educational and social experience while in our schools;

· to include the parents of ESL students in the education of their children; and

· to develop in the school community an understanding and appreciation of the linguistic and cultural diversity of our student population.

HELP is innovative, according to HELP developer Judie Haynes, because it is designed to include everyone in the school who works with ELLs. "It begins with school secretaries when new families walk into the buildings," she explained. "Staff development has been provided to help classroom teachers understand second language acquisition, diverse cultures and the culture shock young students experience when they first come to the United States from foreign countries." In addition, said Ms. Haynes, materials have been developed or purchased for ESL newcomers, and training on adaptations to instructional methods help classroom teachers better meet the needs of ELLs. Mainstream teachers of newcomers are provided with a folder of activities for beginning ESL students, books on tape, computer programs and other suitable materials.

As part of the HELP program, parents of ELLs are invited to meetings to discuss their concerns and to receive information about how they might help their children. A translator is provided for each language group. "Parents are invited to volunteer in the schools, no matter how limited their English," said Judie Haynes. "A bilingual parent volunteer program organizes parents so that they can train each other."

In addition, ESL staff and teachers confer regularly on the needs of students, according to Ms. Haynes. "Revisions to the ESL curriculum have given ELLs more rapid access to content area instruction so that they are able to meet the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards," she said in the interview with ESL MiniConference Online. "Classroom teachers have received extensive staff development through attending State ESL conferences, formal inservice programs presented by ESL staff and informal, regular contact with the ESL teachers to discuss students' progress."

Judie Haynes has also designed a Web site,, where classroom and ESL teachers who work with culturally and linguistically diverse students can access information about second language acquisition, cultural diversity and lesson planning.

One strong motivation for building the "Everything ESL" site is so that through training about second language acquisition and culture shock teachers can be helped to provide a language nurturing environment to newcomers, said Ms. Haynes. "A nurturing environment not only contributes to the social adjustment of the child, but also allows for more rapid language development," she explained. "The most crucial need of newcomers in their new surroundings is not linguistic, but social. Having a good relationship with the classroom and ESL teachers and having friends are the antidotes to much of the anxiety experienced by newcomers."

A crucial element in the winning formula which garnered River Edge the "Best Practices" award, according to HELP program developer Judie Haynes, is the cooperative spirit school staff members establish by sensitizing mainstream classmates of newcomers to these individuals' special needs. "Older ESL students rapidly become a part of the student body, participating in chorus, band, musically talented, art talented programs, gifted and talented programs," she told ESL MiniConference. "Many students participate in these programs within the first year of their arrival in our schools."

Press Release from the New Jersey Department of Education
List of Best Practice Award Winners for 2001-2002
New Jersey Department of Education's Office of Innovative Programs and Schools

By Robb Scott
Editor, ESL MiniConference Online

2002 ESL MiniConference Online