Part one of this story can be found at


by Lydia Carnesale

Beautiful shells in hidden selves,
shadows of linguistic lives.
Language placed on shelves,
Non-English utterances surprise.
Why do teachers feel insecure?
No language is pure.
Can’t they see the practice is similar?
What is the academic cure?
Lo que sucedío
Teachers learn and learners teach,
Efficacy and expertise,
Relationships reach,
And fear is eased.
Uniting voices in a changing world,
Creating safe spaces to grow.


The day is dreary, and the desire to not return to work is strong, but a commitment was made to open doors and continue learning, respira. As I enter, there is an air of insecurity and expectation, confianza. I realize the others have had days just as arduous as my own, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they decide to stay home and relax instead of attending yet another professional development.

The selected community space is a veterans’ lodge that houses quinceañeras, pláticas religiosas, and cenas familiares for the local Latin@ community. It is a space that has been designed to intentionally meet families where they are, this time creating enlaces, weavings to their children’s teachers. As I move through the space, I think of my own home and how I welcome new friends to dinner, impressing upon them not only the value of sharing my home but also the connection I hope to make as we break bread. The quiet melodies of canciones infantiles play while families enter and teachers awkwardly shift where they stand.

They are unsure of their role in this space as the power of a classroom no longer sets the tone to direct and teach.

Currently, there is a narrative that highlights an apprehension among leaders and administrators with respect to teacher retention but shadows the lack of preparedness that teachers feel as they are placed in classrooms with emergent bilingual and multilingual learners. Districts offer professional development but do not always focus on areas where teachers need additional support. Connecting with multilingual families and learners is an area of great concern for these professionals — both understanding their language and culture and how to leverage these factors as key connections to English language curriculum to support growth and development (Heineke et al., 2022).

While navigating the state and engaging in discussions with administration and educators as a Multilingual Learning Engagement Coach, a new way of thinking about this professional development need began to take shape. The creation of personalized learning opportunities through micro-credentials, professional incentives for teachers to be able to assess their knowledge and growth regarding multilingual learners, was launched as a part of the professional development solution. Additionally, a pilot program offering a unique personalized learning opportunity was developed specifically for a district through the design and collaboration of the Office of Early Learning and Literacy, a local district’s Title III Coordinator, and a willing group of early childhood teachers.

These maestras, teachers who — when asked if they would like a professional development opportunity to enhance their teaching practices and connect better with the mutilingual students and families they serve — immediately responded yes. These overburdened and tired teachers wanted support, skills, and enlaces to support the growth and development of ALL their students. They were surveyed about their challenges when engaging multilingual families and the areas of support needed when developing early literacy skill sets. They were excited and involved with the planning of the sessions and eager to see how the community would respond.

As the evening’s events commence, one of them approaches and shyly asks if she is supposed to join the families in eating and wonders how she is supposed to speak with them if she doesn’t know any Spanish. I ask her to let down her walls and forget the gap that seems to widen as the unfamiliar language surrounds her. I encourage her to simply join in and naturally note what happens. A Bluetooth speaker dynamically shifts between familiar Spanish children’s songs and Siri translating English instructions about what will be happening as the night continues. As the statements are translated to the best of Siri’s ability, the air shifts. Giggles displace language power and begin to weave relationships among these seemingly distinct individuals.

Las maestras gain confidence, weave between children, and set their shoulders, ready to impart the curriculum lesson they have prepared for print awareness. As the instruction begins in Spanish, las maestras become active learners to the children and families present, who are using their home language practices to meet the goal for the lesson. Children eagerly engage in the dialogue, naming images, reading words, recognizing letters and sounds, and making connections to their lives in both languages. Teachers are stunned by the ease and confidence with which these students use Spanish to support their developing English.

Anecdotal notes are written in English, both to denote the literacy learning data points connected with the emergent bilingual practices in this novel space and as reference points to support later practices in the classrooms for las maestras. Teachers note how this work will inform their visits from Child Early Reading and Development Education Program (CERDEP) monitors. Their new knowledge will inform how they structure small group time and pave new ways to support the home language while still using their required curriculum.

The small veterans’ lodge transforms that evening into a space where educators can connect and learn with families, stripping away language boundaries and restructuring how literacy and languages are lived through a personalized learning opportunity. This experience sets the stage for ongoing learning through micro-credentials and future shared opportunities. Research confirms supported teachers have agency in their abilities, and higher teacher efficacy means better student outcomes (López & Santibañez, 2018).

Teachers are learners, and our learners can be teachers.

We as a community need to weave the knowledge present among us for the benefit of our youth. Leaders and administrators across the state are a critical part of the teacher retention conversation. Experiences like this prove we have the methods and means to enhance and scale personalized professional learning opportunities for all educators.

Lydia Carnesale is the mother of four children and is currently completing her doctorate in language and literacy at the University of South Carolina College of Education. She serves as an Education Program Specialist with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. She has also worked in Title I child development classrooms and within early Head Start and has conducted statewide technical assistance in early childhood settings.


Heineke, A. J., Vera, E. M., Hill, M., Israel, M. S., Goldberger, N., Anderson, B., Giatsou, E., & Hook, K. (2022). From preparation to practice: Enhancing in-service teachers’ work with emergent bilingual learners through graduate teacher education. Teacher Education Quarterly, 49(2), 8–32.

López, F., & Santibañez, L. (2018). Teacher preparation for emergent bilingual students: Implications of evidence for policy. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 26(36).

This story is published as part of a recent storytelling retreat hosted by CarolinaCrEDhoused in the University of South Carolina’s College of EducationMira Education, a CarolinaCrED partner, facilitated the retreat and provided editorial and publication support. Learn more about this work and read additional stories by following @CarolinaCrED and @miraeducation.