EL interest caucus aims to increase educator voice, accomplish change

More than 20 teachers across the state took part Monday in the Hawaii State Teachers Association’s first English learners (EL) interest caucus via Zoom.

Current Joint EL Committee members, Waiakea Elementary teacher Jill Tung-Loong and state resource teacher Tanya Mau, and HSTA President-Elect Osa Tui, Jr. organized the caucus in an effort to increase teacher voice around the challenges seen in the classroom and build a network of support.

Caucus participants addressed ways to increase member voice, and took part in focus group discussions on EL budgeting, professional development, programming, and resources.

Jessie Wu, EL coordinator and teacher at Niu Valley Middle School, said support for this ‘high-need’ population is imperative. “All stakeholders need to advocate for equity in learning for EL students to succeed, Wu said. Such equity in learning includes receiving quality instruction by highly qualified and trained EL teachers, being placed in an appropriate program that provides inclusive and differentiated instruction, and allocation of sufficient budget and resources for EL programs.

President-Elect Tui said, “Our initial EL caucus was successful, and we are well on our way to forming focus groups and assigning leads to those groups. This is just the beginning, and we hope teachers will continue to join. As with anything, it takes time to realize change, but we are stronger together and we have a structure through which we can accomplish change.”

The Joint EL Committee is tasked with problem-solving operational and working condition concerns for teachers assigned EL, and makes joint recommendations to the superintendent. For example, the recent one-year extension to the six-credit EL Sheltered Instruction Qualification (SIQ) was achieved through this committee in the latter part of the 2020–21 school year.

HSTA’s goal is to facilitate a line of communication between the joint committee and caucus focus groups to improve EL programming in the classroom. Three meetings have been scheduled with employer counterparts over the next school year to share solutions.

Prior to these meetings, caucus focus groups will explore and gather statewide data on various EL issues. Tung-Loong and Mau are looking to expand the pool of caucus participants to collect as much information and ideas as possible.

If you’re interested in joining our caucus and/or taking part in focus group meetings, sign up here.