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Undergraduate education students present at state conference

Pictured l-r: students Katie Mitchell, Veronika Snuggs, Alana Bray; TESOL keynote speaker Gloria Ladson-Billings, Ph.D.; students Abby Slattery, Katy Smith; COE faculty member Alisa Leckie, Ph.D. and student Tyler Brownridge.

Several undergraduate students from Georgia Southern University presented at the 36th Annual Georgia Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (GATESOL) Conference held in Macon on Oct. 19-20.

Participating in the conference were: early childhood education majors Alana Bray, Tyler Brownridge and Abigail Slattery; dual certification majors Kaitlyn Smith and Veronika Snuggs; and middle grades education major Katie Mitchell. Presentations centered on information they developed as a part of the College of Education’s English as a Second Language (ESOL) Methods course taught by Alisa Leckie, Ph.D., assistant professor of English learner education.

“Students presented the work they did developing instruction for first and second grade emergent English learners,” said Leckie. “From here, their work was given to the first and second grade teachers at Hesse K-8 School in Savannah as a part of our ongoing collaboration with their ESOL program.”

Leckie explained that the collaboration with Hesse School began in 2016 with the increasing need of modified materials for emergent English learners.

“Their need coincided with my desire to revamp the portion of my ESOL Methods class that focuses on emergent learners,” she said. “I met with the lead first grade teacher, and she gave me several areas/topics that needed modifications. I then assigned the topics to groups of students who modified materials, located additional online resources and created materials for teachers and students.”

Students collectively presented their projects and received feedback from professionals at the GATESOL conference, allowing them to make improvements on their unit plans. Once completed, students uploaded their work to a shared Google Drive folder where all participants at the conference as well as first and second grade teachers at Hesse K-8 School can access the plans.

“There is such a need for this type of support,” said Leckie, “and it is a skill that ESOL endorsed teachers need, so modifying instruction for emergent English learners based on the needs of our partner school systems will be a continuing part of the ESOL Methods course.”

Leckie also emphasized the importance of students participating in professional organizations and conferences.

“Engaging as professionals is one benefit of presenting at conferences,” she said. “There are a variety of professional networks across the state and helping our students participate in these professional organizations will hopefully ignite a desire for them to continue this engagement after graduation.”

During the GATESOL Conference, the students had the opportunity to meet one of the keynote speakers, Gloria Ladson-Billings, Ph.D. A professor in the School of Education at University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ladson-Billings is known for her work in the field of culturally relevant pedagogy and critical race theory. Her publication, The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African-American Children, is significant in the field of education.

The Georgia Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (GATESOL) is a nonprofit organization provides development and leadership to the improvement of instruction and understanding of non-native speakers of English. Created in the early 1980s, GATESOL provides nearly $12,000 in grants and awards each year to advance programs to assist with these diverse learners.

Georgia Southern University offers multiple opportunities prepare educators for diverse learners including a master’s and graduate certificate in teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students as well as an ESOL Endorsement. For more information visit


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