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NJ Cultural Competency and English Language Learners (ELL) Institute and Mentoring Program

The New Jersey Cultural Competency and English Language Learners (ELL) Institute and Mentoring Program was established in 2007 to transform the thinking and practices of early childhood teachers working with diverse children learning English as second language.

The program provides three days of intensive training by experts in first and second language acquisition, cultural competency and English Language Learners (ELL) followed by a nine-month mentoring program. The program is designed for both the lead and assistant teachers in classrooms in New Jersey to be trained together and grow professionally as a team. The program infuses content, theory, practice, and simulations coupled with mentoring and coaching - the perfect formula for the achievement of ideal classroom settings for diverse children and their families.

Each new participant will receive an assessment visit, followed by three supportive/mentoring visits and three assessment visits to measure successful transformation of theory to practice. Each classroom receives a tool box filled with materials to assist them in creating a culturally responsive classroom. Participants are assigned to a mentor/coach who will actively support the infusion of culture and ELL theory practices into the classroom. In addition, participants have on-going opportunities to discuss the link between culture and language through quarterly learning communities via teleconferences.

This unique feature of the program allows for the continued discussion of classroom strategies as well as peer learning as participants share their successes and test new ideas with their peers. Each classroom is evaluated using a five-point scale with 26 categories that measure the teaching team's transformation thinking and implementation of early childhood best practices. Also, teachers disposition for change is measured through a tool called the change scale. The state of change scale was developed by the Children's Institute in Rochester, New York.

The findings and results from each ELL program are published annually. 

For more information on this program contact:

Ana I. Berdecia, M.Ed.
Senior Fellow/Director
Center for the Positive Development of Urban Children
John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy
Thomas Edison State University
(609) 777-4351 ext. 4290
E-mail

ELL Mentors


ELL Mentors

Class Summer Institute


Summer Institute Class

2010 The Director's Institute: Training Culturally Responsive Directors


2010 The Director's Institute: Training Culturally Responsive Directors to Mentor their staff

ELL Mentoring


ELL Mentoring at Work

The AWAKA Cultural Assimulation, Class of 2011


The AWAKA Cultural Assimulation, Class of 2011; photo by Herman Hinitz

a cultural tool box valued at $350.00


Each classroom is awarded a cultural tool box valued at $350.00

"There is almost nothing that a person can do while interacting with children under three, while caring for a child under three that is not cultural. Everything is cultural."

"When I do not know myself, I cannot know who my students are. I will see them through a glassy darkly, in the shadows of my own unexamined life-and when I cannot see them clearly, I cannot teach them well."