Episode 21: Inspiration from Florida’s Teacher of the Year with Dorina Sackman

Episode 21


On this episode of Bilingual Avenue, I interview Dorina Sackman, the 2014 Florida Teacher of the Year and a finalists for the 2014 United States Teacher of the Year!  For the past 14 years, she has been teaching non-native English speaking students in the United States. Dorina is a strong proponent of culturally responsive classroom and considers it a stage for children to celebrate their diverse backgrounds while still learning English.   She is proficient in five languages including English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and French!

Episode #21 Quick Guide

On this episode, Dorina discusses with us:

  • Her multilingual journey which started in 3rd grade when she met a few classmates from South Korea and Iran and Dorina took on the role of classroom ambassador;
  • How her love of languages led her to study French;
  • How her new community in Massachusetts encouraged her to learn Portuguese which later lead to learning Italian and Spanish;
  • The new languages she is learning including Arabic, Cape Verde Creole, Haitian Creole, Farsi, and Sicilian;
  • How her experiences with dyslexia inspired her to become a teacher, enhanced her language learning abilities and allowed her to connect with her students;
  • Findings from brain based research conducted by Arturo Hernandez at the University of Houston indicating that bilingual individuals have an increase of blood flow in the brain that can help children with disabilities in different ways;
  • How she found her calling to become a teacher which started with a volunteering project helping others learn English;
  • How just two years ago she had 17 languages and 11 countries represented in her classroom;
  • Her approach to sharing with her students the diversity of the classroom;
  • How she manages different languages, backgrounds and education levels all in one classroom by getting to know her students well and differentiating her instruction;
  • Strategies that parents can use at home with their children including creating a love for languages by talking to your child about the value of speaking multiple languages;
  • Her suggestion to communicate with their children’s teachers about how they can support the needs of their children;
  • Recommendations based on how she has seen her Vietnamese families preserve their language by incorporating community centers that include language lessons;
  • The importance of supporting literacy skills in the heritage language because of its correlation to literacy skills in any other language learned;
  • How incorporating books, computer programs and bilingual resources at home can allow a child to preserve language;
  • How her appreciation for Indian films led her to create a an English learning activity that incorporated the entire family;
  • Her thoughts on how parents that are not proficient in the language of the school can still support their child’s need by helping their child develop strong organizational skills and ensuring that homework is completed;
  • The need for maintaining an open communication with teachers to collectively work on the needs of students;
  • Two programs called Imagine Learning and MyAccess that she uses in her classroom and recommends to other schools for children learning English specifically;
  • Her advice to parents raising bilingual children including
    • Teach your child the importance of being bilingual;
    • Expose your children to both of their languages;
    • Not one language is better than the other;
    • Make language learning a natural flow;
    • Celebrate your languages.

Other resources by Dorina Sackman:


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