ELL - Many Voices

What’s working with English language learners? What makes “it” work? How do we know? Charter Schools are often accused of not doing enough to attract English Language Learners. What are we doing, given the autonomy of charter schools, to do better? What do we have to show for our independence?


Melissa Katz is the NYC Charter School Center’s Program Manager of English Learner Supports. In this capacity, she ensures that NYC charter schools have access to the essential resources and tech assistance necessary to lead their ELLs and MLLs to academic success. Melissa advocates for ELLs aims to strengthen their presence and achievement academically. Before coming to the NYC Charter School Center, Melissa worked as a PK-5 ESL and French dual language teacher for the NYC DOE. In the classroom, she crafted an inclusive environment through culturally responsive teaching and best second language acquisition methodology, including SIOP.


Ellen Somekawa is the Executive Director of the Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School in Philedelphia, PA. For 18 years, Somekawa was the Executive Director of Asian Americans United where she oversaw the process of visioning, building organizational consensus, planning, political mobilization, and institution-building that resulted in the founding of the Folk Arts – Cultural Treasures Charter School. At AAU, she managed the creation and growth of the Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival, now a community tradition in its twentieth year; oversaw AAU’s youth leadership programs; and participated in numerous campaigns for justice.

St. Claire Adriaan is the middle school principal at Academia Avance in Los Angeles. He was born, raised and educated in South Africa during Apartheid. Very early in his life, he learned that education was his only weapon against Apartheid. Motivated by his parents, community and teachers, he did everything in his power to go to college. His main goal is to help keep minority students in school. He strongly believes that it is not where you come from that determines your destiny but hard work, the will to succeed and adults that believe in you. St. Claire believes and advocates for equality, justice and fairness for all students.

Alan Núñez teaches music at Academy of the City Charter School in Queens. He’s on staff at Andover Bread Loaf, a summer workshop for students and progressive educators, and has taught with them in India and El Salvador. Alan has worked as an administrator, evaluator and teaching artist with various institutions, including New York City Opera, Juilliard and the New York Philharmonic. He has presented at VSA: Intersections at the Kennedy Center and for the New York State Council on the Arts several times as founder of Boundless Learners. He is a three-time Academy for Teachers seminar recipient and was a National Endowment for the Arts scholar in July 2017.