May 19, 2022 – Just under 9,000 and counting.
Ask district leaders and they’ll confirm that the number of English Language Learners, or ELLs, within Team Duval is on the rise. In fact, recent months have seen an influx of new ELLs relocating to the district from refugee countries such as Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Cuba.
But despite their varied backgrounds, one thing is constant: teachers and staff are constantly working to see multilingual learners succeed. These successes were made evident in a series of recent awards ceremonies honoring student achievement. Between the district’s 20th Annual ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) Awards, Dual Language Awards, and Seal of Biliteracy Ceremony, hundreds of students were recognized for exemplary achievements in their pursuit of English and other languages.
According to district ESOL director Ingrid Carias, Duval County Public Schools is home to 8,927 ELLs speaking over 100 different languages and representing 100 different countries. With the district’s ESOL Awards, Carias says the goal was “to motivate students to continue to work hard in their studies, set goals, and dream big.”
Each of the ceremony’s 135 student recipients received an ESOL Student Ambassador medallion and certificate. Carias, who immigrated to the United States from Honduras at age 13 without knowing any English, encouraged students with her own story of having to learn a new language.
As if mastering the English language wasn’t enough of a challenge, Carias notes that many of the district’s ELLs are aiming higher. Thanks to the district’s Dual Language program, students can pursue proficiency in two or more languages.
The Dual Language Program recognizes students in an annual awards ceremony for certain achievements such as Commitment to the Dual Language Program, Most Growth in Spanish Literacy, and Reaching Biliteracy in English and Spanish.
“Our Dual Language program is a highly effective approach to developing language proficiency in English and Spanish,” says Carias. “Our students maintain their native language while adding another language, and they develop pride in their own culture while learning an understanding of others. I am tremendously proud of these exceptional bilingual students, their extraordinary educators, and supportive families.”
This year’s Dual Language Awards saw students recognized for a variety of achievements, ranging from Reaching Biliteracy in English and Spanish, Making Growth in Spanish Literacy, as well as Commitment to the Dual Language Program.
The Seal of Biliteracy provides another pathway for Team Duval students to attain a high level of proficiency in one or more world languages in addition to English. Students seeking to earn the Seal of Biliteracy must satisfy specific requirements set out by the state, which includes having a standard diploma with 4 credits in the same world language, and a 3.0 GPA or higher.
Twenty different languages are spoken among these students. Students received Gold and Silver awards depending on their level of competency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
This year’s ceremony saw a record-high 611 students recognized with seals.
“As educators, it is tremendously rewarding to recognize our students who have attained a high level of competency in one or more world languages,” said Master of Ceremony and former district employee Dr. Joanne Davis. “This award promotes global citizenry and diversity while honoring multiple cultures.”