Central High School teacher Tracy Verduzco clearly was not prepared for her Apple Seed Grant to be accepted earlier this month, as she emotionally embraced her students and a representative from the SJSD Foundation when she found out she won one.
Grants from the foundation are funded through the community as well as donations from American Family Insurance. The money is allocated toward funding innovative project ideas proposed by local teachers.
Verduzco teaches shelter ELA classes for English Language Learner (ELL) students, and her Apple Seed Grant will go toward equipping them with mobile, two-way translators for their general classes.
She said the idea came to her after she saw a school in Chillicothe, Texas, utilizing the technology, specifically the WT2 Real-Time Wearable Translator, a device that was funded 400 percent on Kickstarter within just one month.
The devices, which are operated through an iPad, connect to wireless earpieces and mics. The teacher can then wear one of the earpieces and the student wears the other. This allows words to be translated from one language to another with about two seconds of delay.
“Teachers are expressive and they communicate with their hands, by pointing and using visuals and by traveling around the room, and if you have to stop and look at a translator (application on your phone), instruction stops and then it has to start again. So you kind of lose the flow of class,” Verduzco said. “But these little translator pieces let the teacher teach in real time. An ELL student can be completely engaged, because as the teacher speaks into the piece, the student wearing the piece hears it in their language. If they have questions, they just raise their hand, ask a question, and it goes from their language back to English.”
Upon receiving the Apple Seed Grant, Verduzco said she was incredibly emotional, and she told her students that these translators would change everything.
“You’ll finally be able to learn at your level!” she said to her class.
ELL students take a test to determine what level they’re at regarding their mastery of the English language. But even those who rank higher may experience difficulty when writing an essay or doing homework.
“What happens a lot ... is that their language is at a primary level where their cognitive ability is at an age-appropriate level,” Verduzco said. “But (the translators) will bring our ELL population right into the middle of school culture. They’re going to feel confident. They’re going to not be treated like they’re only as smart as their language acquisition. They’re going to be taught at their cognitive level, which is amazing.”
Central High School will be receiving $5,800 through this year’s Apple Seed Grant and recently purchased 16 translators with seven iPads. They will slowly introduce the translators into various classes going forward, Verduzco said.