by Leigh Ann Eck
Current School and Position: Tippecanoe Valley K-12 Digital Integration Specialist and English Learner Instructional Coach.
Teaching History: My first two years (2005-2007) I spent teaching overseas at an international school called Rosslyn Academy in Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa as a 3rd grade classroom teacher. In 2007, my husband and I moved back to the US to my hometown where I was offered a job teaching 4th grade at Akron Elementary – Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation. From there, I have worked as a Reading Interventionist, Elementary Instructional Coach, and Technology Coordinator for a consortium of schools in Northern Indiana called The Lead Learners.
Describe your experience working with EL students and teachers.
EL students are near and dear to my heart. A passion was lit in 2003 when I went on a mission trip to Nairobi Kenya- Eastleigh (a community within the greater Nairobi area). I was a part of a group of college students who spent time partnering with an organization called Made in the Streets to help teach homeless youth. This experience was not long enough, and I decided that teaching overseas was where I was being called to. In my classroom at Rosslyn Academy, English learners were the majority of my students and from many countries – South Korea, Kenya, A
merica, The Netherlands, and Ethiopia to just name a few.
And so, as we moved back to the US, I craved those diverse perspectives that English Learners bring to the classroom and looked for ways to build partnerships with EL families within our small rural community. In 2017, I was blessed to get an opportunity to do just that as an English Learner Instructional Coach. While in this role I have been able to support students, teachers, and administrators through co-teaching, data meetings, EL Task Forces, and Family Literacy Nights.
I not only have the pleasure of working at school for EL students but also share my life with one. My husband, Phelix, has been my best teacher when it comes to viewing life as a language learner. His first languages were Kiswahili and dhluo and later learned English in primary school.
Last summer we both were able to spend time working at Phelix’s primary school, St. Teresa’s Boys Primary School in Eastleigh. We led teacher trainings to share best “teacher moves” when it comes to language learners. We also modeled lesson delivery and supports within the classroom setting. It is always a dream of mine to continue the work of partnering with schools in Kenya to problem solve student/teacher needs and provide training a support for their schools
Favorite book you read this school year: Americana by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Currently reading: Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue and Time for Change: Four Essential Skills for Transformational School and District Leaders by Anthony Muhammad & Luis F. Cruz
If there is one practice you would have teachers begin tomorrow, what would it be and why?
Take time each day to really get to know your students on a personal level. I fully believe in the saying that “nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” When you connect with your students, they will work harder for you because you really see them as a person.
How do you take care of yourself away from school?
The Omondis spend a lot of time as a family watching movies and favorite TV series. We are also very active within our church family and help oversee various youth programs.
What advice would you give to English teachers for the implementing technology in their classroom for the 2020 – 2021 school year?
Really dive deep into your school’s Learning Management System. Whether it is Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams/Class Notebook, or another LMS, spending time now, will help make this coming year so much smoother! Many of these products have free courses you can take to help train you on the basic functions of the platform. Once you start using it and have specific questions, “ask” Google to see if there is a quick video or tutorial to get you over your hurdle. Social Media is also a great way to connect with educators using the same platforms as you. For instance, I am a part of the Facebook group called “Microsoft Teams for Educators.” I have learned so many tips and tricks for using Teams and have an avenue for asking specific questions and getting answers quickly.
“Inga is the kind of educator who notices the small things and lends a hand when help is needed. She is compassionate and intuitive…and never shy about having fun.” Ruth Ayres, Director of The Lead Learners