Floyd County Schools’ (FCS) coordinator of English to Speakers of Other Language (ESOL) Professional Learning and virtual ESOL teacher at Alto Park Elementary School, Dr. Jennifer Pendergrass has been elected president of Georgia Teachers of English for Speakers of Other Languages (GATESOL). GATESOL is a nonprofit organization that supports TESOL professionals, ESOL teachers, their students, and families. GATESOL just held its annual conference, where the election results were announced and her role took effect.
“I am actually looking forward to this year as president. In every interest section of ESOL, everyone is in a place of uncertainty and everyone is needing that support,” said Pendergrass. “It’s an honor to lead in a time when people need it, and we want to put things in place for those in the field. GATESOL membership gives those instructors a sense of community and people to lean on when it is most critical. This is a group of passionate leaders I’m so fortunate to work with.”
Dr. Pendergrass’s first stepping stone to professional learning started in 2007 when she began working with teachers to give them the tools to keep the ESOL students engaged beyond their sessions with her, and this made her want to reach out beyond her local community and be a leader in GATESOL.
Dr. Pendergrass most recently served as 1st Vice President and Conference Chair of GATESOL. She was 2nd Vice President in 2019, Secretary in 2018, and completed a two-year seat as GATESOL Regional Liaison for Regions 1 and 2. She is on the Board of Directors for the National Accreditation of Educational Translators and Interpreters of Spoken Languages (NAETISL). She earned her bachelor’s degree in Deaf education at Ball State University, her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction at University of Phoenix, her ESOL endorsement at Northwest Georgia RESA, and her doctorate in teacher leadership at Walden University. Jennifer published her doctoral thesis, “Increasing the Vocabulary Acquisition Rate for Third Grade English Learners” in 2017. GATESOL In Action published another manuscript in 2017 as well. She was selected by the Conferences Professional Council (CPC) of TESOL International to be a Team Leader for the 2019 TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo.
Dr. Pendergrass credits FCS for investing in her own professional learning and creating a culture of supporting and collaborating with other teachers and volunteer work. She stated that FCS ELA specialist Barb Neslin and FCS director of federal programs Dr. Laura Timberlake have been her biggest cheerleaders and mentors. Jennifer is also really grateful to Dr. Henderson and Mr. Kapustay at Alto Park Elementary for keeping her engaged and giving encouragement. She wanted to thank fellow FCS teachers Alicia Payne, Sara Seckinger, Ashlee Alfred, and Wendi Van Leuven for volunteering their time for this year’s virtual GATESOL conference.
“I love working with students who are so eager to learn language. They’re so appreciative of the time we spend together because the language support helps them to survive in other classes and in the world. I help them find their own voice in this new language,” said Pendergrass.