Introducing Strong in Every Language
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Janelle Morrison and submitted
Zionsville Education Foundation (ZEF) is a not-for-profit and a separate financial and legal entity from the Zionsville Community Schools (ZCS) and its Board of Education. ZEF is governed by a volunteer board of directors who, through careful financial investments and meticulous stewardship of corporate and community donations, maintains the founding supporters’ original mission: to use the money raised and invested to fund classroom, professional development and student enrichment grants.
ZEF recently awarded multiple grants to teachers throughout the school district, including one written by ZCS’ own Kris Barksdale, Mandy Keller and Julie Luker. ZEF awarded these teachers $4,256 for the “Strong in Every Language” grant that provides the English as a New Language team with interpretation and translation technology to be used in all ZCS schools, so information can be clearly communicated in languages other than English.
“ZEF Classroom Grants fund innovation in the classroom and excellence in education,” stated Lyle Browne, ZEF COO. “This grant fits really well with our mission because it takes a problem and tries to solve it through technology and software. And the more we can solve problems or provide a piece of education that’s unique and exciting for kids, the better off our schools will be, and the stronger our kids and teachers will be.”
As the district continues to grow and the community becomes more diverse, it is important that the administrators and teachers are able to communicate with all 52 languages that are currently spoken throughout the ZCS district.
“ZEF is so excited to be part of this grant,” Browne said. “It will enable teachers and administrators to talk with families and students a lot more clearly than they could before. It will enable verbal translation and also translation in print. If you have to wait three days for someone to read it and translate it for you, the moment is lost, but if you can have the conversation in real-time, it makes it a lot better for everyone who’s engaged in the conversation. The ability to start off your child’s educational career here in Zionsville and have that information clearly communicated in your own language is invaluable.”
ZEF board member Theresa Meyer spoke about the myriad of ways the “Strong in Every Language” grant is going to not only improve communications between the parents/guardians, teachers and administrators, but it will relieve the student of the burden of playing translator and messenger. Sorry, kids. This also means that your parents/guardians are going to be able to translate your report cards!
“We know without a doubt that those parents are now going to be able to be parents, and the kids get to be kids now,” Meyer said. “The kids have been taking on the parent or guardian role because they have to. They’re the only ones who can translate the language. They have to translate the bills and the phone calls that come into their homes. This [grant] is key for these parents to actually feel competent to go in and speak about their child’s education. Everybody is getting their communication needs met with this grant.”
Meyer explained that in addition to the cost savings of having to bring in a translator and the challenge of finding one available for all of the 52 languages in an expedient manner, the grant also closes the gap on communication issues and/or errors when it comes to issues that most of us take for granted, such as school delays, medical/allergy information, learning/behavioral issues, permission slips and other legal documents that most of us sign without even giving it a second glance because we are familiar with the rights that we are waiving on behalf of our children.
“When we delivered the grant so that they could put into use, that was life-changing, and it gives me peace as an educator and a mother,” Meyer said. “The grant will allow us to teach, parent and support the kids, so that they can go off and be who they need to be.”
ZCS’s Chief Academic Officer Kris Devereaux spoke about the impact that this grant, awarded by ZEF for the benefit of the entire school district, will undoubtedly have on the students and families.
“Without ZEF, we [ZCS] couldn’t do things like this [grant],” Devereaux emphasized. “They’re a fabulous partner with ZCS. I can tell you that there are so many things like the ‘Strong in Every Way’ initiative that we couldn’t do without partners like ZEF. The ‘Strong in Every Language’ grant is really important to us as is the ability to communicate well with all of our families and be inclusive. Our population continues to be more diversified, which we are thrilled about, but having the variety of different languages that we have now, we were finding it to be a barrier for these families when it came to investing and partnering with the schools when we can’t communicate with them.
“What this [grant] is going to do is give ZCS Google Pixel technology, and the translation software, ‘Babylon,’ is going to be downloaded to the E&L teacher laptops and all of our front office computers at the ESC as well as the schools, so that we are able to talk with families when they come in. We will also be able to send out written communication in their native languages, so that they feel connected to the schools.”
Devereaux concluded, “These teachers did a great job of bringing all of the pillars of ‘Strong in Every Way’ into one package in this grant that they wrote for ZEF.”