Embracing Multilingual Learners: District 14 Conference at China InstituteFrom right to left: Karen Watts, Executive Superintendent, Brooklyn North NYCDOE Borough Office; James B. Heimowitz, President, China Institute; Alicja Winnicki, Superintendent, Community School District 14; Wenwen Zhang, Teacher, PS 250.
By Jeremy Willinger, Director of Marketing at China Institute
Shalom! Bongiourno! Ni Hao 你好! Buenos Dias! And Good Morning! A multi-lingual welcome characterizing the diversity of their school district greeted the 130 administrators, educators, students and parents from Community School District 14, representing Williamsburg and North Brooklyn, attending their second annual conference.
Held at China Institute on April 17, the focus of the program was on “Embracing Multilingual Learners: Advancing equity through language” and showcased the extensive efforts by District 14 Superintendent Alicja Winnicki and the dozens of schools within the community to meet the needs of their multi-ethnic population and use language as a platform to provide learning opportunities and pathways to future success. On hand for the conference were an array of parents and students, as well as Dr. Linda Chen, Chief Academic Officer for the NYC Department of Education, Mirza Sanchez-Medina, Deputy Chief Academic Officer and Karen Watts, Executive Superintendent for District 14, all of whom gave brief remarks. Winnicki opened the conference by reminding the audience that everyone is there for the same purpose: “to foster appreciation for each other and partnerships that promote equity and access.”
Using the acronym RICE for “Respecting Individual Cultural Experiences,” Winnicki implored all in attendance to “help their students become global citizens and cross the Williamsburg Bridge with us” to help students achieve more and use their cultural backgrounds as levers to surpassing expectations.
China Institute President James B. Heimowitz emphasized the shared connections between the U.S. and China and pointed to the founders of the Institute itself as educators who saw the promise of more cross-cultural understanding as a method to induce long-term cooperation, collaboration and trust.
When Dr. Chen took the podium to speak about multilingual training as consisting of languages other than English, she used the opportunity to chronicle her own journey as someone born in the US who spoke little English when she enrolled in public school. The experience demonstrated that language is also about culture and identity, two areas that can be tapped to motivate students to learn and engage with materials and advance their potential.
Attendees were to be treated to a full morning and afternoon of programming, including music, dance, and other performances from varied classes and schools as well as panels on “Collaborating Partners” and “Creating a School Culture that Promotes Equity by Embracing Language Diversity” but an emergency in the basement of 40 Rector Street necessitated the evacuation of the building and a postponement on the remaining activities. As a center of education and Mandarin language instruction, China Institute is always proud to support multicultural awareness and strategies for success. We look forward to updating you with a full run down if and when the program resumes at a later date. Until then, please enjoy photos from this morning’s introductions below: