Peace and love and Carlos Santana

Today’s blog is a personal reflection as I think back to the past two weeks and all that went by my ears and eyes.  It’s been a lot to process.  There is so much anger and hate.  I feel the need to reinforce what English Learner Portal stands for and why we do what we do.  ALL children deserve to be loved.  ALL children deserve a quality education.  ALL teachers deserve the support they need to make that happen every day.

ELP Staff, Left to right: Susan Zimmerman,  Adriana Brown, and Kelly Reider

Earlier this week some friends and I -you may recognize them from the ELP website- sat on the lawn of a local concert venue and enjoyed the exhilarating sounds of Carlos Santana. While one of the hallmarks of a Santana concert is always the intersection of his musical reflections with his words of  spiritual  awakening,  this night’s performance seemed more poignant than usual given the forces of anger and divisiveness of our country in recent days.

Yet even as Santana invoked the desperateness of recent events, his message focused not on the negativity of people’s actions, but rather on how each of us can harness the power of love and peace within to overcome the negative forces around us. “The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace.” As Santana spoke, the entire audience rose to their feet in a spontaneous demonstration

photo credit:

of love and support.  And as we stood, I was reminded that, despite of all the anger and hate we may perceive around the country, good things really ARE happening in our nation’s schools. Thousands, perhaps millions, of good people dedicate their careers and their lives to supporting and educating some of our most fragile learners. 

For example, if today’s headlines have you longing for a feel good moment, all you have to do this Back to School season is follow a few teachers on Instagram. It is a joy to scroll through all of the amazing classroom designs, creative first week of school activities, and positive personal reflections teachers are sharing.  When I think about how many students those creative teachers impact each year, I feel better about the world.

Joven Noble Team:  Nicole Vaden, Jacky Munoz, Hilda Ramirez, Joe Hudson (not pictured: Monica Lopez)

In fact, we are surrounded by so many good people, not just teachers, who are dedicated to the future of our children. Closer to home, a partnership between the school system, police department, and the National Compadres Network pulled together over 60 students in August for camps dedicated to the idea of “La Cultura Cura” or culture heals.  This partnership works together all  year  to

Xinachtli Team: Monica Lopez, Nicole Vaden, Hilda Ramirez, Jacky Munoz

provide adolescents with structure, guidance, lessons of self respect and the respect of others, as well as a lasting support network.  I was able to visit during Joven Noble camp and the scene was beautiful.  One leader was on the patio with a student who was visibly upset sharing that “people think I’m a badass and I don’t want to be a badass”. Chart paper was posted with reflections of earlier conversations about what posterpeople think of them and what they need. Partners were focused on creating the loudest machines possible with their STEM kits. (OK, the goal was to learn about circuits and create a machine that worked, but they were LOUD.) Students had four full days of escaping the pressures of the neighborhood and building relationships that will support them into the school year.


The leaders of the Joven Noble and Xinachtli camps will be writing their reflections for the ELP blog soon.  For now, I will leave you with a few images that illustrate how they, like you 20479759_268173540345261_5810586968681802259_nand many among us, continue to work tirelessly day after day with an open heart: just being there, showing concern, being available, giving students a means and a place to express themselves.




THANK YOU to all educators, both in the schools and from the community, as we dedicate ourselves to a new school year.  You make a difference. A special thank you to Carol Salva, who said it so well in a short video she created for our online book study. Carol said, “All language learners are an asset.”   At English Learner Portal, we specialize in working with English learners, but our hearts and work are dedicated to ALL students.  Pointing out those small moments that often go unnoticed, but make a difference in the lives of children, will be a focus of the ELP social media outreach this school year.  Please follow us and share your moments as well!

Instagram: englishlearnerportal

Twitter: @EngLrnPortal


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When the teacher becomes the learner…

I promise to get back to the blog series about the amazing work going on with our students and the National Compadres Network’s social/emotional character development curriculum this weekend (Xinachtli camp this week, Joven Noble last week).  For now, I am taking a little bird walk to share the latest happenings at English Learner Portal.

deskI had planned to spend a chunk of my summer giving English Learner Portal a greater web and social media presence.  Get the website up ( – check!  Create a Twitter account (@EngLrnPortal) – check!  Create an Instagram account (englishlearnerportal) – check!  Post more to the Facebook page  – check!  Research a platform for delivering online professional development for teachers – check and instant gauntlet thrown!  I learned quickly how rusty my tech skills have become!

I found the platform and dove in head first.  For the past two weeks I have been watching webinars, reading blog posts, exploring numerous technology options for video editing, meeting with various creative colleagues, participating in my first Google Hangout call to share ideas, clicking a lot of clicks and wondering how I got to where I was, …  I now remember how much I love to create professional development and I also remember how exhausting it is to learn new technology!

This is the home page of the English Learner Portal Online School.  Isn’t it beautiful?


That was the easy part!  Now it needs courses and students!  I am 3/4 of the way through creating our first online book study for teachers through this new platform.  My head is spinning from all of the technology options out there, but it is a true joy at the same time.

IMG_6123Our first book study will be “Boosting Achievement – Reaching Students with Interrupted and Minimal Education” by Carol Salva and Anna Matis.  I ordered this book a few months ago after seeing it on Twitter.  I know many programs and teachers struggle with reaching our students who come to us with little English and little formal education, especially those who are coming to us as teenagers and young adults.  I thought the book was very easy to read and provided a good mix of research and practical examples that I could implement tomorrow.  I reached out to Carol and, to my surprise, she gave her full permission and excitement to create the online book study!

So, when my brain is on overload and I’m dreaming of computer screens and video edits, I remember that soon teachers will be able to join the book study and take advantage of not only reading this great book, but also the variety of related resources we’ve gathered to support teachers of newcomers as well.

Please stop by the new online classroom at and click the “Enroll Now” button.  That enrolls you into the “school”.  Once you are enrolled there, you will be the first to receive notification when this book study opens, as well as many more professional learning opportunities to come!

If you have any feedback or suggestions, I’d be happy to hear from you!  Please email me at  I’ll be back to the blog soon with more about Joven Noble, Xinachtli, and my technology learning curve!