Taylor Thai is renowned for the magic she works with the youngest English language learners (ELLs) at Margaret L. Donovan Elementary School in Randolph, Massachusetts. When she began working at the school, it did not have a curriculum for ELLs, so she worked with the English Learner Department to create a district curriculum that is now in use. Her classroom is filled with alternative work stations, including a stage, so her kindergarten and first grade students can choose their favorite learning environment. Thai collaborates with general education teachers on lessons that incorporate English as a second language instruction and make learning accessible to all. Donovan serves approximately 100 current and 40 former ELLs each year, with up to 88 percent of Thai’s students meeting or exceeding targeted growth goals on ACCESS English language proficiency assessments.
In addition to leading Donovan’s ELL team, Thai mentors colleagues and coordinates the building’s ACCESS testing and screening. She served on the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s teacher advisory cabinet and received the department’s InSPIRED fellowship, to help increase diversity in the state’s educator ranks.
Donovan serves a growing number of Vietnamese families, with whom Thai has built strong relationships. She ensures materials are translated and reaches out by phone and through home visits to integrate them into the school community. Families of ELLs increasingly attend family events, orientations, open houses and after-school sessions because they know Thai will be there to help them take an active role in their children’s learning. When Donovan moved to remote learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Thai delivered materials to students’ homes and organized a drive-by parade to keep families and teachers connected. She engaged the whole class in a daily Zoom, then led small virtual reading groups from her home classroom. When Donovan moved to a hybrid model, Thai put together individual learning packets so she could teach her students outdoors on in-person days. Whatever the challenge, Thai is eager to find a solution.
Thai earned a bachelor’s in legal studies from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2006 and a master’s in elementary education from Lesley University in 2011.
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