By Kaine Korzekwa
Learning the English language is tough, especially as a young child in elementary school who also needs to perform well on standardized tests. Josie Guiney Igielski, a 4th grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary in Madison, Wisconsin, uses her UW–Madison graduate training to help these students succeed.
“I was working as a teacher for a while after my undergrad and my principal encouraged me to go back for a master’s in English as a Second Language. We thought it would be great because of the diverse populations at our school. The need for people with an advanced focus or greater understanding of language learners has increased in our world, especially in Madison.”
During her time in graduate school, she studied culturally relevant practices for diverse linguistic groups in the classroom, even having her thesis published in a book about international perspectives on teaching.
“It was an amazing opportunity to really grow as a teacher and think about the reasons I make the choices I do to make my teaching more purposeful,” Guiney Igielski says. “I thought about working my way into administration but I just like kids too much.”
Guiney Igielski believes that her job as a teacher is to raise the next generation of people that will care for the planet. She’s not just teaching kids to read, she says, she’s teaching them to care about other people and have empathy for others.
She also continued to work and be involved in Lincoln Elementary during her time in graduate school, which she graduated from in 2010. In 2014 she received the Milken Educator Award. Only about 40 teachers in the nation receive the award each year.
“I think that there’s so much pressure put on schools to perform and students to perform through testing and I think that my knowledge of how kids acquire language can help me siphon through the results of those tests and know what is a valuable thing I can look at and what is really sort of bogus because they’re language learners,” she explains. “What is testing their English and what is testing their knowledge?”