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Innovative Educator: Boise language teacher adds on to students' math vocabulary

Emilie Eisenberger co-teaches lessons on the language of math at Whittier Elementary.

BOISE, Idaho — Math has a language all its own. This week's Innovative Educator is teaching her students to speak it fluently, even as she continues to learn to speak it better herself.

Emilie Eisenberger is the English Language Development Co-teacher at Whittier Elementary School in Boise. She focuses on the language of math.
She co-plans and then co-teaches math lessons with teachers in every first- through sixth-grade class.

"The second-grade teacher brings the content and I come with, ok, this is how we can support language while we're learning how to add on a number line," Eisenberger explained as an example of the collaboration.

Eisenberger says Whittier Elementary has many students for whom English is a second or even third language.

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She says addressing that challenge through co-teaching is the opposite of what was typically done in the past.

"So it's not a piecemeal like, you're going to get pulled out and I'm just going to work on your English right now, but it's we're really going to work hard on your English development during math time," Eisenberger said.

She calls math a universal language.

"It's just one layer of vocabulary that the students can always fall back on," Eisenberger said.

To add to that vocabulary, Eisenberger comes up with creative tools the kids can use on their own.

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The Mathematician Word Wall is one of those. On their computers, students click on a word, and then a recording gives a definition.

One of the choices is the word compose: "To put together. For example, 3 and 2 compose 5," the recording explains.

Or the word units: "A type of measurement. For example, a triangle could be a unit. Inches and centimeters are a unit of measurement."

The co-teaching combined with the creative tools can lead to a-ha moments. That look on students' faces is what it's all about for Eisenberger.

"It gives you chills when you see it," Eisenberger said. "You can get those looks ten times a day and never get tired of that feeling."

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While she helps students build their language and math prowess, she continues to build her own. She's working on a doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction. She says becoming Dr. Eisenberger is, in itself, a lesson for her students.

"If you want to do something, you can do it," Eisenberger explains. "And that's what Dr. Eisenberger, I hope, will portray to the kids, that if I want to know something and I want to do something, I'm going to know it and I'm going to do it and you can, too."

If you would like to nominate a teacher who is going above and beyond, send us an email to innovativeeducator@ktvb.com. Educators, for more information on submitting an application for a classroom grant through the Idaho CapEd Foundation, visit www.capedfoundation.org.

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