Ascension Parish's Denise Thomas selected for teaching fellowship

Staff Report

The U.S. Department of State selected Denise Thomas of the Ascension Public Schools English Learner (EL) Program for a premier, 10-month fellowship project training teachers and teaching English at Souphanouvong University in Laos.

Thomas is one of only 200 U.S. citizens selected for the 2022-23 English Language Fellow Program.

“We are honored to have an English Learner teacher from Ascension Parish selected to participate in the fellowship,” said Ascension Public Schools Superintendent David Alexander. “This opportunity will allow Ms. Thomas to deepen her understanding of strategies to best support English Learners.”

On assignment, EL Fellows teach English, conduct teacher training, develop resources, and organize events and conferences. These projects are challenging, and the teachers selected represent the best of the U.S. TESOL (teachers of English to speakers of other languages) community.

In return, the program provides professional development opportunities to help participants experience different cultures and build skills that can greatly enhance their TESOL careers back home.

Thomas’ career in education spans 20 years. She began as a middle school social studies teacher in East Baton Rouge Parish. In 2017, she started working in Ascension Parish and has worked with English Learners at the primary and secondary levels. She has a Master of Curriculum and Instruction degree in ESL from LSU Shreveport.

Thomas’s advocacy for the EL Program is well-known. She not only creates advertisements and flyers for the program but also helps spread the word online.

“Her technical skills have been an asset to the APSB English Learner Program,” said Supervisor of Federal Programs for Ascension Public Schools Latatia L. Johnson, Ed.D. “She created an EL website with EL resources, and she started our EL Facebook page to allow parents to access district announcements and updates in their native language.”

Through projects developed by U.S. Embassies in more than 80 countries, Fellows work directly with local teachers, students, and educational professionals to improve the quality of English language instruction offered at prestigious universities and other academic institutions.

“Denise has given presentations to staff on technology and EL scaffolds,” Johnson said. “Likewise, she will be able to share her new learning with EL staff, which will have an impact on teaching and learning for ELs. She is always willing to help improve the APSB English Learner Program.”

Since 1969, the English Language Fellow Program has sent thousands of TESOL scholars and educators abroad to promote English language learning, enhance English teaching capacity, and foster mutual understanding between the U.S. and other countries through cultural exchange.

English Language Fellows are counted among the more than 50,000 individuals participating in U.S. Department of State exchange programs each year. The Fellow Program is administered by the Center for Intercultural Education and Development at Georgetown University.

“This is one more example of how she advocates for students and families,” Johnson said.

The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) with funding provided by the U.S. government. For more information, visit http://eca.state.gov/.../english-language-fellow-program. For more information about Ascension Public Schools, visit AscensionSchools.org.