Ms. Messmann And Our Dual Language Program!


The New Dealer recently had the honor of interviewing Ms. Messmann, our Assistant Principal of World Language! Ms. Messmann is finishing her first full year as the leader of our World Language Department. We learned some interesting facts about the new Dual Language Academy starting next year and Ms Messmann’s achievements!

What are your greatest challenges, so far, overseeing such a large and diverse language department?

“In terms of students being diverse, I don’t really find it a challenging aspect. By having a diverse school, it makes it easier to have more ENL programs, because you naturally create a situation where you have students who are speaking to each other in English. We get students to learn English much faster by practicing it. The challenge I guess is to get all teachers to get a common understanding of the best ways to teach, and what the classroom should look like.  That is probably the hardest thing.”

Could you tell us a little bit about the language academy starting this fall? Why Chinese and not another language?

“This fall we are opening a dual language program. A dual language program is a little bit different then a traditional bilingual language program, because the students in the program are mixed, ESL students and students who speak English already. Probably in your experiences, you have students in the classroom where everybody was learning English. In this school you have bilingual languages that are Chinese and Spanish, and that’s because of the number of students who speak these languages. When you have 25 families that select bilingual education, the school is suppose to open a bilingual program. Let’s say that we’ve got 25 families that chose a Russian bilingual program, we’ll first look if there’s some seats in other schools that have such a program. If they can take the kid there, they’ll take them. If there are no seats in any schools available, and we’ve got 25 families that wanted it, we would have to open this program. The bilingual language program is when you have all the kids in the class speaking the same language, and they’re not practicing their English enough. With the dual language program you are making all of the students be bilingual speakers.”

In your opinion, what does FDR do well for ELL students, and what can be improved upon?

I think what we do well is that all of the students are safe, diverse and have a lot of opportunities to express themselves. Students are comfortable to speak their language in the school. Students also wear their traditional clothes. Most importantly, we have respect. Cultures are valued and respected. What we can improve on is making connections between student’s culture and our curricular more relevant. I think that we could infuse different cultures in books that we choose to read in English classes. When we are teaching Global Studies, we can kind let the student share their knowledge of the world in the classroom. They can take a leadership role by teaching and sharing their own perspective of the world, by being born in the different country. I think that we need try to learn by project based learning, instead of sitting and teaching them on the blackboards. You should be able to learn, even if you don’t speak the language. Find the way to teach a kid something, while he or she doesn’t speak any English.”

What has been your most rewarding moment this year as an educator?

“We have meetings twice a month for professional development that I facilitate. I try to teach our teachers strategies to use in their classrooms. I think it has been rewarding to be one of the teachers to take these strategies, improve and modify them, and really get students leading the class, leading discussion.”

Do you have anything to say to the FDR cougars?

“I am incredible privileged, excited, proud that I’m leading this department. This is the school that has the most of ESL students in the city, and I feel that the students are amazing. I would never forget the first day of teaching here, because I thought that it would be hard. I came in the middle of the year as a teacher, but the students showed me a lot of respect. I was completely impressed by how mature and respectful the kids were. I feel that it’s such an honor to be working in such a diverse school, to be leading the largest ESL department in the city. I enjoy coming to work every single day. It’s my job to navigate the students on the right path, to graduate, and do whatever they want to do with their future.”