Volume 14, Issue 1 (2022)

Sunshine State Writers and Beyond


On behalf of Sunshine TESOL of Florida (SSTESOL), it gives me great pleasure to see this special issue come to fruition. The work done in the state of Florida by EL educators always continues to amaze me and the selection of articles in this issue showcases this. Sincerely, Tony Erben, SSTESOL

Welcome to the Journal of English Learner Education Special Issue celebrating Sunshine State writers and beyond.

Our lead author, Natasa Karac, shares her story with us. She is a product of the Balkans powder keg: a mix of the East and the West in every conceivable way and the best of both worlds. She has defied any EL statistic from being an unaccompanied minor to living in a refugee camp in subpar conditions; from being denied school enrollment to a doctoral degree.

Currently, she serves as the EL Services Director at Pinellas County Schools, Florida. In this position, she is tasked with ensuring that the districts’ 6000+ ELs in grades K-12 receive meaningful and high-quality education. This involves close collaboration with school and district administrators and federal programs to ensure equal access to high quality language programs, rigorous grade-level curriculum, as well as all other services and programs for the district’s ELs.

Natasa Karac’s greatest accomplishment was being a part of the team that led to an EL graduation rate high for ELs: ELs in Pinellas graduated at a 91.12% rate in the 2020/2021 school year. When the total district grad rate is 91.97% for Pinellas and 90.11% for the state, Pinellas is graduating ELs, who are still learning the language, at a rate higher than that of the total graduation rate for the state. During her time in the office, the EL graduation rate almost doubled in a span of 8 years. Since 2017/2018, the Pinellas EL graduation rate is consistently higher than the state average for the subgroup.

Most importantly, Natasa Karac is a mother of two loving boys who are being raised to know that kindness and dedication can change the world.

She starts our Special Issue with Closing the Opportunity Gap: A Story of English Learners and Their True Ability, discussing how innovative thinking has changed English Learner lives in Florida’s Pinellas County.

Next, Loren D. Jones and Luciana C. de Oliveira describe a design-based research study focused on collaborative writing with MLs in a diverse first-grade classroom. Collaborative writing is identified as one promising pedagogical practice in Collaborative Writing with Young Multilingual Learners.

Through The First Days of School are the Most Challenging: English Learners’ Stories of Resilience and their Recommendations by Jill Hendrickson Lohmeier (University of Massachusetts Lowell), Shanna Rose Thompson (University of Massachusetts Lowell), and Bangsil Oh (Kyonggi University), we hear multilingual learners’ stories of resilience and their recommendations for U.S. educators to create a more welcoming environment.

Isabel Haller-Gryc, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, discusses solutions to combat the under-representation that results when teachers are tasked with identifying potential gifted ELs in When Teachers Are the Gatekeepers of Gifted and Talented Programs: Potential Factors for English Learners' Underrepresentation and Possible Solutions.

Two authors share their Teaching Tips with us. Scott Freiberger, in Six Strategies for Classroom Success: Enhancing Teaching and Learning for ELLs in Diverse Content Areas, gives readers strategies for enhancing English Learner teaching and learning in diverse content areas.

Melanie Wolf-Greenberg (Educ8Every1, LLC), Tracey Horvath (Leigh Valley Academy Charter School), and Eugenia F. Krimmel (Universal Cultural and Language Services, LLC) present Three Steps to Create a Designated ELD Curriculum Aligned to Academic Content. They discuss the benefits of a designated ELD curriculum that integrates academic language into targeted ELD instruction.

The next issue of JELE will be published December 2022. Submissions will be accepted until October 1, 2022.


Kerry Purmensky, Editor

Laura Monroe, Managing Editor

This is my final issue as Editor and it has been my great pleasure to work with the amazing authors who have submitted work to the journal. I will truly miss working with all of you! Kerry



Collaborative Writing with Young Multilingual Learners
Loren D. Jones and Luciana C. de Oliveira


Three Steps to Create a Designated ELD Curriculum Aligned to Academic Content
Melanie Wolf-Greenberg, Tracey Horvath, and Eugenia F. Krimmel