Refugee Education Hinges On A Co-Teaching Model

May 3, 2016

Twin Falls’ refugee program brings together students from diverse backgrounds. It does the same with teachers.

The district’s co-teaching model groups “the content police and the language police,” said Kimberly Allen, an instructional coach at Twin Falls’ Canyon Ridge High School. A subject expert — such as a math teacher — works alongside a colleague who specializes in working with English language learners.

“We’ve jokingly called them arranged marriages,” said Allen.

In a district where students speak 27 languages, these marriages are a matter of necessity. The goal is to help subject teachers tailor lesson plans to the ELL students in their classes, and to deploy a team of teachers that will meet the needs of the entire class.

Like Twin Falls’ refugee program itself, the co-teaching approach has grown. Over six years, the district has pieced together $500,000 in grants — mostly from the State Department of Education, but also from community groups, private donors and the Twin Falls Education Foundation.

Eight ELL teachers and 16 other teachers have received training.

At Canyon Ridge, Kathy Dabestani and Brent Rogers team up to teach algebra I. Rogers is the ELL specialist with 14 years of experience, mostly working with Latino students. Dabestani, a math teacher, has a unique perspective on the plight of the refugee students. Her husband is Iranian, and in the late 1970s, the couple fled the Iranian revolution that thrust the Ayatollah Khomeini into power.

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