State recognizes local student and ESOL teacher

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Sandy Creek High senior Lizzeth Rojano-Gonzalez and ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) teacher Matthew Estrada, also from Sandy Creek High, have been named Star English Learner Student and Star ESOL Teacher, and were honored by the Georgia Department of Education for excellence in achievement.

Gonzalez was selected for the honor after being nominated by her school, and then selected at the county level to represent the school system at the district competition. A total of 16 students were selected from each of the RESA (Regional Education Service Agency) districts to be recognized before the Georgia Board of Education. Gonzalez’s native language is Spanish.

To be considered for the Star English Learner Student recognition, students must have a minimum 3.0 grade point average, be on track to graduate with the class of 2016, and have recommendations from a teacher or school administrator.

Winning students select the ESOL Teacher winner, and write a 250-word essay highlighting how the teacher made a difference in his or her life. Teachers must have taught the student an ESOL subject for which the student received credit.

This marks the first year that the Georgia Department of Education has recognized Star English Learner Students and Star ESOL Teachers. An inaugural ceremony was held during the Georgia Board of Education meeting in May to honor all of the district winning students and teachers.

Tammy Strickland with the school system’s ESOL program says this is an important recognition because English learner students have to work twice as hard to make high academic achievements.

“It takes extraordinary perseverance and dedication to achieve high academic standards while learning a second language. English learners are faced with acclimating to a new culture and are tasked with learning the language of academics simultaneously. In essence, it is double the work,” she said.

In the photo, Lizzeth Rojano-Gonzalez is seen with Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods at the recognition ceremony.