Karin Buck: My name is Karin Buck. I’m the vice principal here at Cherry Hill and I’m also a special education teacher.
Interviewer: If you would just repeat my question as you answer it that way I’ll be totally out of the picture.
Karin Buck: OK.
Interviewer: Uh, tell me about Rosemary.
Karin Buck: Roxanna?
Interviewer: Of Roxanna.
Karin Buck: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) OK. Roxanna Rodriguez is a 5th grade student. Um, she came to me at the beginning of the school year. She was tested last year for special education. Usually we don’t have uh very many—very, very few uh ESL students in special education. Um, Roxanna was tested both in English and in Spanish and it was found that she had a learning disability in both languages. So we service her for um reading and spelling in my class. Um, and she’s been doing really quite well.
Interviewer: What—what kind of—tell us a little bit about your program in your classroom?
Karin Buck: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) OK. In—in the classroom program Roxanna is working with a group of students—she’s the only ESL student, but they’re 5th grade students who are working way below grade level. They’re working on about a 2nd grade level as far as reading goes. Um, and so we do a lot uh with um phonics, with sight words, I also work with oral reading and I read orally with her every single day so she gets use to reading orally and—and gets use to the—the rhythm of reading and um—and becomes familiar with words. And so I can see where her problems are. And so I do read with her every single day and do spelling lists with her. And we work a lot and we do the spelling too with meanings of words because often she recognizes and can spell the word but she doesn’t know what the word means. So I’ve worked a lot with meanings with her where we talk about what the word means and we look them um and we—we use them in sentences and uh we talk about them a lot so that she can—can learn the meaning of—of her words.
Interviewer: How long has she been living here?
Karin Buck: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) She was born in the United States. (interruption) Roxanna was born in the United States. She was born in uh southern California, so she’s lived here all of her life. She’s a citizen, but she’s a child of parents who are native to um El Salvador. Um, she speaks Spanish exclusively in the home. Her father speaks English quite well. Her mother speaks almost no English but does understand some. So she um does not speak much English at home at all so it is difficult for her.
Interviewer: And in the Spanish test (interruption) In the Spanish test uh how did she do?
Karin Buck: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Um, I didn’t do the testing because I don’t speak Spanish, but she was very low. She—her skills in Spanish were very, very low, way before grade level. Um, and she has been in school um since kindergarten but um—but does have some—some learning disabilities. Has—has real problems.
Interviewer: So she speaks rather fluently in English.
Karin Buck: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) She speaks fluently in English. She does. Her—her understanding, like I said, her vocabulary is limited. Um, she does speak well but she doesn’t um—she doesn’t have a wide—wide vocabulary at all.
Interviewer: What kind of strategies have you used with her to help her?
Karin Buck: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Um, we do—I do a lot of speaking—oral speaking with her like I said. We work a lot with—with word meanings with her and she has picked up very quickly on word meanings. Um, working with vocabulary words. Um, and we do a lot with—with oral reading with her and her reading has improved. She’s come up in less than a year of over a year—about a year in a half in her grade level reading. When she first started reading and resource, um it was just a matter of a few words. It was really kindergarten level. So she’s come up to 2nd grade lev—almost two years in a year. So she’s shown really good progress and she’s very, very willing. She—she works hard. Um, she—she really tunes in. She tries hard. Um, she’s really amazing to me.
Interviewer: What does she do well in your classroom?
Karin Buck: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) She will try anything you ask her to do. She is—is extremely willing. It seems to me um often when I get students who are as old as she is, when they’re 5th—5th and 6th grade, they’ve kind of given up um when they’re—when they’re that far below grade level. But she hasn’t at all. She’s extremely interesting in learning and in reading and in trying. Um, she hasn’t lost that zest for learning. Um, she’s a very sweet, kind student. She’s kind to everyone around her. Um, she’s a very generous, out-going person. She’s soft-spoken, but she’s very friendly. Um, she’s willing to work with other students uh when—when we do group work. When she’s working with another student or with a group of students, she’s very willing to help them with what she knows. And many times uh she knows things that they don’t—other students don’t know and she’s very willing to cooperate and work with them and help them um wherever she can. She’s—she’s a very sweet little girl.
Interviewer: Have you had any surprises?
Karin Buck: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Hmm. Uh, I think my surprise is that she hasn’t given up, that she—she is—is so willing to work. Yes, it’s amazing to me sometimes to with difficult—when we work on more difficult vocabulary um how she will pick up on words and how she’ll remember them. She does really remember them and she continues to use them. And several days later sometimes when we come upon the same word and I think, “Well, she’ll probably forgotten it,” she doesn’t. She retains and she’s remembered it. And this is quite surprising because quite often with uh, special ed students, they forget and we have to remind them over, and over, and over, and over. And many times uh she remembers more readily then some of the students that I have. So that’s a surprise.
Interviewer: Do you have any major concerns for her?
Karin Buck: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Um, my concerns for her is that she’ll have people that will continue to work with her and help her on her level, um, that she won’t—still won’t lose the desire for learning, that she’ll have people who will be willing to help her and help her move along because I think she has great potential as an individual, as a human being, as a person um for herself and in—in helping others. I think that she has a great deal of potential.
Interviewer: Are there any stories that you can think of that kind of capture her experience?
Karin Buck: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Um, she recently—well, about a month or so ago, broke her arm at school—fell and broke her arm on the bars at school. And um she’s had to miss quite a bit of school just because of that and she was in quite a lot of pain. And she was in the office and she was crying when this first happened and I was in there with her for part of the time. And even though she was in a lot of—of pain and wasn’t feeling well, she was still able to put a smile on her face between the tears, talk with people, joke with people, um and get in touch with her mother. She—she ended up kind of calming her mother down who was concerned with this break and the family didn’t have insurance and the mother didn’t know where to go or where to take her or who to take her too. And Roxanna was willing to help us with a great deal of information and was able to um help us find a doctor. We—we called on the phone and she was—she was extremely helpful even though she was in this painful situation. And so she is, I can tell, very helpful not just here at school but to her mother and she’s able to calm people around her. She’s just a very uh, sweet child.
Interviewer: What kind of relationship do you have with her regular classroom teacher?
Karin Buck: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) I taught—yes—she does come out of a regular class teacher—regular classroom and I do work with—with her regular classroom teacher. Um, her regular teacher says she doesn’t get very much work out of Roxanna. She says she doesn’t do much in the class. Where I’ve had just the opposite experience. Where I find she does a great deal of work for me. Um, and I’ve—I’ve been really pleased with the (interruption) OK. Um, I get a great deal of work with her and I do work with her teacher. I communicate regularly with her teacher. Um, but I—I’ve found that Roxanna does need that one-on-one attention. She will not always ask when she needs help and I think that’s part of the problem in the regular classroom. She probably tries to get by when she doesn’t understand what needs to be done. So um she does need that extra one-on-one attention.
Interviewer: What do you consider her biggest challenges?
Karin Buck: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Probably asking for help, asking for the things that she needs, explaining. I think sometimes it’s hard for her to communicate and to express what she needs um in—in a classroom situation. Um, I think she’s a very social little person. She—I think she doesn’t want to be embarrassed in front of her friends or admit that she doesn’t know something hat she—that she doesn’t know, that she needs to know. And so I think this is going to be a challenge with her.
Interviewer: And in terms of her academic performance, what do you consider her challenges?
Karin Buck: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Um, I think that—that is a big challenge. Her academics are going to be a big challenge for her. I think she’s probably going to need in the next few years some real serious um—both ESL and special ed help. I think she can learn to uh—to compete well in the classroom. I don’t think she’s ever going to be the top of the class but I think that she can compete in the regular classroom as time goes on as she learns to—to deal with some of the problems that she has and um and she learns to, for example, read uh better, spell better, to build her vocabulary, I think she will be able to compete uh more successfully in a regular classroom situation.
Interviewer: You say you’ve seen major improvement in her reading area. Is that the only area you work with her in?
Karin Buck: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Just reading and spelling. Those are the areas that I work with her in. Spelling is still difficult for her.
Interviewer: Talk to me about her self-confidence.
Karin Buck: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Um, I think she is fairly—fairly confident. She is quiet, like I said. She’s social, she’s very friendly with the—with the other children um but she’s not a—a boisterous child. She’s more quiet child. But I think she feels very confident. I think she feels socially accepted. Um, she also feels well liked. I think she feels good about those things. Um, she’s willing to try. She has a younger sister who’s in kindergarten and she likes to read little books to her sister. And since her sister is—is younger, her sister likes that. And so she likes—she likes to learn to read these little stories so she can share them with her little sister. (interruption)
Interviewer: What her ability with her assignments?
Karin Buck: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) She can if she understands the assignment. (interruption) Oh, excuse me. She can do her assignments well if she understands what needs to be done. Um, she—if I give her a spelling assignment, for example, um in writing maybe a sentence using her spelling words, if I make sure she understands the words well, she can work by herself and get that assignment finished. She’ll ask a few questions but she can work by herself and get things done. Um, but she—I have to be sure; very sure that she understands what the assignment is. And if she does, she will work well by herself.
Interviewer: So how does she fit in culturally into the school?
Karin Buck: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) I think she’s been here long enough that she understands the culture. She does like to share um customs, especially during the holiday season where—where we do talk a lot about customs. She does like to share what her family does and what they do that’s different then what we do. But she has um lived in the country, like I say, her whole life and she has had friends who are not Hispanic and so she culturally has been—I think acculturated quite well into the system. She does get a long well and understands a lot about this culture.
Interviewer: Would you consider English her dominant language?
Karin Buck: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) I don’t know. It—it—it’s the language that she uses at school. I think that she’s probably really very bilingual. She uses both of them probably equally as much because I think she uses solely Spanish at home.
Interviewer: How many siblings does she have?
Karin Buck: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) She has three. Um, she has a—a younger sister and two older brothers. And I think there’s also a cousin living in the home from uh Central America.
Interviewer: What kind of parent support does she get?
Karin Buck: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) She has good parent support. I mean—I’ve seen her mother come to the school regularly. I’ve seen her mother here. Like I said, her mother does not speak English um but her mother does come. Uh, for parent-teacher conferences her dad—father always comes with her um and he does speak English well and um is very concerned, very interesting in what she’s doing. Um, I feel like she has good parent support. I think her parents are—are very loving to her and very interested in what’s going on with her.
Interviewer: Why don’t you just say whatever you’d like to say about uh—what you think might be helpful to people learning how to deal with these children.
Karin Buck: Mm-hmm. Um, I think that very off times people are—are afraid of children with speaking—that speak a different language and I don’t think that they’re any different from any of our other children. I mean, you do have different challenges but they need love and acceptance just like any child does. Um, they’re—they’re by and large very willing to learn, willing to try. Um, and I have had wonderful experiences with the children in our school who are from different countries. I think that they enrich our classrooms. I think they enrich our school. They give us a—a different way of looking at things and I think that they help all students. And I think that they make our word a better place and I think they help children to become more understanding of our world and our situation. And I think we should be grateful that we have them.
Interviewer: Can you speak a little bit about the challenge of having uh large classrooms and having people that are quite diverse?
Karin Buck: Well, it is difficult when you have a large classroom and at our school we have many students of different language groups. It’s largely Hispanic, but we also have some French children at this school, some Russian-speaking children. Um, some children uh that speak Portuguese, um, some Italian-speaking children. So we have a large group of—of students of—of other languages and it is difficult in the classroom. Um, it does take some um changes. Uh, you have to adapt the classroom. Uh, we find that it’s very helpful when the teachers use the other children to help as well and to take part in the learning of children who are ESL students. Um, it is difficult but it is not an impossible situation and if—if we work together as teachers it’s very helpful because we do have a good ESL teacher in our school. And also as teachers work together, the special ed teachers, the ESL teachers, um different teachers who are specialty teachers, with these children, it is easy to adapt and to work with them and to help them.