Arizona Republic
December 13, 2006

Author: Laura Houston, The Arizona Republic Estimated printed pages: 2

When it comes to instruction for English-language learners, Glendale Union High School District is doing something right.

For the past two years, the district has attracted accolades from the Arizona Department of Education, earning two instructors, Karen Merritt and Lisa Wakefield, the title of Teacher of the Year in educational acquisition services.

Educators, business leaders and community standouts judge teachers from around the state for ELL Teacher of the Year.

Teachers have to teach in Arizona for at least three years and use language immersion in daily instruction.

Wakefield was this year's winner and will be honored Thursday during an ELL conference in Tucson.

For 17 years, Wakefield has taught her students how to speak English. But she's more than a teacher. She also acts as a cultural liaison, a social worker and a second parent, said Wakefield, who teaches at Greenway High School.

"I always try to get them plugged in," she said. "A huge part of my job is looking out for those students."

There's nothing small about the challenges Wakefield faces every morning when she stands before her students.

Her students often have to play academic catch-up to get on track with their peers and prepare for state and federal testing.

"To get students proficient in reading and writing in a couple of years is a real challenge," Wakefield said.

She also keeps an eye out for jobs and is a life coach when one of her students has to juggle baby-sitting siblings with doing homework.

Day-to-day obstacles haven't changed much since Merritt was in the classroom at Glendale High School.

Since she was recognized as 2005's ELL Teacher of the Year, Merritt received a promotion to be ELL curriculum coordinator for Glendale Union.

Reach the reporter at (602) 444-6924.
Edition: Final Chaser
Section: Glendale Republic East
Page: 15

Index Terms: AWARD
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Record Number: pho160771340