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Okhee Lee - 50th Anniversary NYS TESOL Conference Presenter (2020)
10/29/2020


We asked NYS TESOL 2020 presenters to answer a few questions about the unique times we are living in. Here is what Okhee Lee shared.

In what ways does your work support, celebrate, and validate multilingual learners‘ cultural, racial, and linguistic assets?
The new science standards place equity at the center, thus all standards, all students. To achieve this vision, traditional approaches give way to contemporary views in teaching science. Traditionally, scientists and science teachers defined canonical knowledge of science disciplines as they were typically presented in science textbooks. Some students learned science, but science did not make sense to many students. The contemporary approach is tailored for all students to make sense of phenomena or design solutions to problems just as scientists and engineers do in their work. As multilingual learners use language to do science, they develop their science understanding and English language proficiency in tandem. Thus, science learning and language learning are mutually supportive of each other with all students, especially multilingual learners, by using their full range of meaning-making resources.

What advice would you give to teachers of multilingual learners to face and advocate for their students and families during COVID-19 and systemic racism?
Teachers have been handed a central role in overcoming the impact of COVID-19 and systemic racism that is disproportionately affecting multilingual learners. As professionals, teachers decide and carry out what is best for their students, especially students on the margins, including multilingual learners. Particularly relevant are the compassion and resilience expressed by teachers during these unprecedented times when our society is facing so many challenges and uncertainties.

What impact do you think COVID-19 and racial justice movements will have on TESOL Education?
In my work, I think about the role of STEM in addressing COVID-19 and systemic racism. It‘s compelling to see how crucial STEM disciplines are in finding solutions to COVID-19. At the same time, they are complicit in the perpetuation of social injustices by failing to address problems of systemic racism for people of color, the poor, and other marginalized groups on the global stage. Now is the moment for STEM disciplines and STEM education to work in concert and address both COVID-19 and systemic racism. I believe we can achieve a new – better – normal for STEM education centered on social justice for all students, including multilingual learners.

Okhee Lee is a professor in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University. She served as leader for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Diversity and Equity Team. Her current research involves integrating science, language, and computational thinking with a focus on English learners.

Come and learn with Okhee Lee on Friday, November 13th, 2020 at 9 am at the NYS TESOL Virtual Conference.