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PD Case Study:  Williston State College

With the recent oil boom in Williston, North Dakota in 2012 many English learners moved to Williston to find work.  While the boom was at it’s height Williston’s permanent population surged from about 12,000 to an estimated 40,000, after accounting for the oil industry workers who came and went in stints.  In 2014 when foreign oil prices plummeted, many of the people that moved to Williston lost their jobs.  This left many English learners without work and the option of furthering their education.  Many of the English learners decided to apply to Williston State College.


Williston State College is is a two-year public college in Williston, North Dakota.  WSC provides general, vocational, and technical education.Williston State college was aware that some changes needed to take place in order to better serve their new growing population of students.  So in the spring of 2016, Williston State College began to plan for changes to the Adult Learning Center and adult support services, focusing on better serving their EL population in both transfer and technical programs. WSC was referred to Confianza to help them design and deliver faculty and staff training that addresses the needs of English learners.


As a Confianza coach, I have had the pleasure of supporting Williston State College through  two days working with all WSC faculty and staff in August of 2016.   During the two days we focused on understanding the backgrounds of Williston’s English learners as students, as people, and the influences that affect their education.  The participants also gained an understanding of English acquisition and what students can do at various language levels.  I reminded the participants that knowing more than one language is an asset not a deficit.  We dug in deep to understand the domains of language and the metacognition that its take to learn and understand another language academically. There was deep discussion around supports and scaffolding and that these accommodations are crucial to provide equity in education.  


We worked in small content area groups using Confianza’s Action Cycle.  Confianza’a Action Cycle It a four step process that helps educators target a priority issue for their English learners.  This process makes the new learning transferable to practice through the creation of an action plan.  Within the content teams the participants came up with a collective plan to put into action to better serve their English learners.  


At the end of two days together I felt confident that Williston State College was ready to make a difference in English learners lives and to change some of their practices to best serve their new population of students.  Since August of 2016 I have had opportunities to follow up with the staff and educators at Williston to see their magic be put into action.

-Marisa Mannella-Nathan, Professional Development Specialist and Coach of Confianza: Educating for ELL Equity.

Letter from the College:

In the spring of 2016, Williston State College began to plan for changes to the Adult Learning Center and adult support services, focusing on better serving our ELL population in both transfer and technical programs. WSC was referred to the Confianza Group to help us design and deliver faculty and staff training that addresses the needs of 2nd language learners at WSC.

From our first phone conversation, I was impressed by Confianza’s willingness to listen and let us tell “our story” about the challenges we face in serving students and community members who are not native English speakers. Confianza’s early research and preparation focused on student and community member characteristics in the Williston area, as well as the history and perspectives of WSC. It was the approach I hoped for as we engaged a group unfamiliar with northwestern North Dakota. Confianza’s attention to detail and preparation paid off when it delivered the training in August of 2016 to faculty and staff for the 2016-17 in-service.

Confianza’s Marisa Nathan spent two days working with all WSC faculty and staff, as well as one-on-one in smaller group sessions with different content areas. Her general and discipline specific presentations were well planned, interactive, and pertinent to our needs and concerns. As a practicing K-12 teacher, Marisa brought a “real world” perspective to the training, and the fact she “walked the walk” in her own classroom gave her immediate credibility with faculty and lead to a positive connection with faculty and staff alike. Her comments and recommendations resonated on both a personal and professional level with our staff, and it was evident that she made a meaningful impression and impact during her short stay.

As a result of Confianza’s training and expertise. WSC now has an action plan to formalize education services for ELL students in regular classrooms as well as in the Adult Learning Center. Cross-curricular and cross-departmental plans were developed to support students in the upcoming school year, and I am optimistic our faculty and staff will build and improve on this early planning as the year progresses.

I am very impressed with the planning, professionalism, and consulting and educational support delivered by the Confianza group and recommend them without reservation.

Respectfully,

John Miller, Ed.D.

Acting President and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Williston State College


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