Educators from Success High School presented Round Rock ISD’s English Language Learners (ELL) program for secondary students, known as Academic Language Academy at Success (ALAS) at the Seidlitz Education What’s Working with ELLs in Texas Conference.

ALAS began in August 2014 and is a learning community housed at Success. The program is designed for students who have been in the country for less than three years; are rated as either beginner or intermediate in Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System (TELPAS) and have not passed their respective State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests. In it’s third year, the program has tripled enrollment.

“Student feedback has indicated that the daily practice of English by listening, speaking, reading and writing in a caring and nurturing environment, that encourages taking risks and making mistakes is a key contributor as to why they are successful,” Success Assistant Principal Marie Banzon said.

The conference presentation included a video profile of several ALAS studentsl including Success senior Oliany Bricero. Oliany’s story caught the attention of Seidlitz Education who invited her to speak on a student voice panel at the recent SXSWedu Conference and Festival.

“I was nervous, but I want to show people that Latin people are knowledgeable and proud of our culture,” Oliany said.

Oliany, who arrived from Tachira, Venezuela three years ago, was one of two Austin area students to share with SXSWedu session attendees her experiences before and after her admittance to the ALAS program.

“I think Oliany is pretty amazing,” said Andrew Barba, English and ALAS teacher. “When I first met her, she was a freshman and only responded by saying yes or no. But by the end of the year she had progressed so far that she was conversational.”

ALAS students take five classes — four core classes and an English development class. Each of the classes is language focused while simultaneously teaching the content. The ALAS instructional team meets weekly to plan and strategize curriculum, developing learning opportunities to accommodate the student’s growth.

“Oliany is tenacious at building her language and academics skills. She’s eight months ahead of her cohort peers,” ALAS Lead Teacher Kinzie Morgan said. “We’d like to take the credit, but it’s really Oliany’s drive and tenacity which resulted in her transformation.”

Oliany said she wants to be a lawyer and is currently applying to colleges. Outside of school, she puts her bilingual skills to use working for Western Union. When she’s not at school or work, Oliany enjoys being at home with her family and chatting with her remaining family in Venezuela.

The ALAS team of presenters included; Banzon, Morgan Leonardo Castro, Social Studies Department Lead and ALAS teacher, Andrew Barba, English, and ALAS teacher, Joseph Furtsch, Mathematics and ALAS teacher and Zachery Murton, Science and ALAS teacher.

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