Lovina Youngman 2

Lovina Youngman of Rockford has been teaching for 18 years, the past 16 at Belvidere Central Middle School. After 15 years teaching sixth grade language arts, she needed a change. She went back to school, added the English Language Learner endorsement to her teaching certificate and joined the Dual Language Team – changing positions at the start of the pandemic! She wrote, “This change has renewed my spirit, but more importantly, it has benefitted my students, their families and the amazing community of educators that I work with.” She teaches both seventh and eighth grade language arts. She enjoys helping people understand the program and how “learning a second language along with native speakers offers more than just having the ability to speak in English and Spanish. It is a way to explore cultural differences and learn about each other while learning with each other.” Many of Youngman’s students have been together since Kindergarten. “It is easy to see the tight cultural bond my students have with each other, so I offer many opportunities for collaborative learning and sharing. I feared giving up control and letting students have classroom autonomy once in a while would undermine classroom management, but it has done the opposite. This is a way for students to practice their speaking and talk in a safe space without judgement. By honoring their diverse views and ideas, I have learned as much from them as they have learned from me.” Her students can work at their own levels in her classes, individually or collaboratively. Youngman uses many methods of teaching vocabulary and helping students develop fluency in two languages such as discussion, reading, games and competitions, many of which are based on student feedback. She says, “Google Translate has been an invaluable tool in my classroom, and it is also a fun way to bond with students because oftentimes the translation is not perfect. We have a lot of laughs over how Google translates some ideas.” Observers of her classroom were definitely impressed with her hardworking students. One shared, “the room was quiet and calm even though I saw the same group being very loud in the hallway. They knew exactly what was expected …. I really enjoyed her methods to keep students on task using timers and personally checking on each group.” The parent of one of Youngman’s past students submitted a recommendation letter in which she thanked her for the attention she had given her daughter, who “is now an EMT and has decided to continue to school in order to become a paramedic.” Youngman enjoyed reading her students’ nominations. “When I saw the Golden Apple nomination written entirely in Spanish by one of my students who started school last year knowing no English words, it brought tears to my eyes. I asked a colleague on the team to read it to me and when I heard her speak that student’s words, I knew that I had made the career choice of a lifetime. Even though we couldn’t speak each other’s languages, we found a way to connect and learn with each other. That’s all I could ever wish for.” That student’s nomination words translated: “When I started at my new school, I knew no English, and when I started to come to this class, I started to learn more words in English. It was a big change in my life to learn even the little English that I do know thanks to our teacher, Mrs. Youngman. Thank you.”