Ashley Nagel Awarded ESL Education Award
Teacher Supports ELL Students with an Asset Perspective
Ashley Nagel always had a passion for working with children. She began her teaching career in Texas, but after moving to North Carolina and settling in the Triangle, she took some time away from the classroom to focus on her family. In 2018, she began working in the school system again, this time as a substitute teacher and instructional assistant. In these roles, she gained an opportunity to work with elementary aged students who had just moved to the United States and were new English-language learners (ELLs).
“These children were extremely quiet in the classroom, but when I worked one on one with them, they talked a lot,” Nagel said. “They told me they were afraid to speak up in class because they feared making mistakes in front of their classmates. This information impacted me, and I wondered how I could help more students in this situation.”
In researching to find the best path for her goals, Nagel discovered the NC State Online English as a Second Language (ESL) Add-on Licensure program. Because she was already licensed to teach in North Carolina, the NC State online program fit her needs by enabling her to take courses and receive an add on license instead of starting a new degree. She began the program in fall of 2022.
“This online program at NC State was flexible and allowed me to take classes at a pace that was best for me,” Nagel said. “My professors also understood the balance of working full time and going to school. They checked in with their students to ensure that we were able to manage the workload, which helped me plan out my time.”
Nagel feels that the NC State program has equipped her with the knowledge she needs to be an effective and successful ELL teacher. The program covers both academic as well as cultural aspects for ELLs, which Nagel understands is a critical component of her teaching process.
“My students might have left family behind or experienced trauma on the journey here. If a child does not feel safe and welcome, they won’t be successful in the classroom,” Nagel said. “Our job as ELL teachers is to provide them with support and encouragement, not just academics. The program at NC State provided me with strategies to implement in the classroom that best fit the needs of my ELL students. And I am grateful for all that the program has taught me.”
Recently, Nagel was awarded the ESL Education Award for 2022-2023. This award is given to students in the NC State ESL Add-On Licensure program who have excelled both in coursework and in their field experiences. According to Assistant Teaching Professor Alison Turner, who prepares candidates to teach multilingual learners in K-12 schools, award recipients are future leaders in their K-12 classrooms and schools where they will support multilingual learners and their families.
“Ashley approaches her students with an asset perspective,” Turner said. “She recognizes the many strengths and experiences that her multilingual learners bring with them to the classroom and looks for ways to build upon those strengths to help propel them forward.”
According to Turner, Nagel makes connections that help her ELL students tap into their cultural knowledge and background. For example, in using the science curriculum about pollinators and plant reproduction, she used the content to reinforce language knowledge by exploring how chocolate is made from the cacao plant.
“To build anticipation, Ashley shared pictures of chocolate from the students’ home countries of Ukraine, India, and the country Georgia,” Turner said. “Students were excited to share about the chocolate bars from their home countries. In this way, Ashley not only reinforced the science content learned by students, but also tapped into their cultural knowledge and background.”
Nagel is currently a full time ESL teacher at Morrisville Elementary School in Wake County Public Schools. She encourages other professionals who are looking to develop their skills to consider NC State online, as she found the Online ESL Add-on Licensure program beneficial.
“I think the online program is a wonderful option for working professionals,” Nagel said. “I don’t think I would have been able to manage work and the program if I had to drive to NC State and attend in person classes, which would have demanded a lot more of my time. Although the program is online, you still develop a sense of community with your classmates through class discussion and group projects. The community service project hours are flexible so they can be accomplished outside of work hours. I met some wonderful people through these experiences!”
Additionally, Nagel is humbled by the recognition and thankful to the instructors in the program.
“All of the professors are excellent, but Dr. Alison Turner was an inspiration to me,” Nagel said. “She taught one of my classes and also served as my mentor for the internship. Her teaching style served as a model for how I want to teach my students. She encouraged me to feel confident in teaching and ensured that I will have access to resources in the future as I continue my professional development.”
“We are excited to see Ashley officially complete her ESL add-on licensure this spring,” Turner said. “We look forward to following her into the classroom as she provides a safe and inviting space for her English language learners to excel.”