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AMTESOL 2025  Keynote Speaker - Friday


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Keynote Speaker: Emily Francis

Emily Francis is the author of If You Only Knew: Letters from an Immigrant Teacher, which traces her journey from a difficult childhood in Guatemala to a challenging start in the United States. Together with two younger sisters, Emily (then known as Astrid Bonilla) arrived in New York City at age 15 as an undocumented, unaccompanied minor. Though faced with poverty and intermittent schooling, she graduated from high school and then college. Following her dream to become an ESL teacher, she earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Constantly inspired by her own experiences as a teen immigrant, Emily has been teaching ESOL for 17 years,  most recently at Concord High School in North Carolina. With her deep personal understanding of the challenges facing English learners, she has served as a cooperating teacher for ESL interns, a mentor for beginning ESL teachers, and a lead on ESL professional learning communities. When named Teacher of the Year in 2016, she served as the teacher liaison on the Cabarrus County Board of Education. In addition to also being a professional development facilitator and motivational speaker, she has been a board member for the Carolinas TESOL Affiliate and for the College of Education's Advisory Board at UNC Charlotte. An appearance on the Ellen Degeneres Show led to Emily being featured in People magazine. Currently pursuing a doctorate, Emily focuses her efforts as an educational leader on inspiring students to dream more, learn more, and become more.

Keynote Address: Honoring Authenticity

Luncheon followed by Keynote Address 

Friday, January 17 at 11:50am - 1:45pm

As educators, we hold a special task - to develop humanity and identity. Our students, especially our minority students, need identity affirming environments where they feel honored and validated. Our schools, classrooms, and communities are spaces of healing and spaces where students should be encouraged to develop their identity and humanity. Emily’s experience as an English language learner affords her a deep understanding of the challenges students must overcome to find success.


Friday, January 17 at 3:00 - 4:45pm

Elevating Students' Authenticity Through Storytelling

As educators, we are charged with one of society's most important tasks, that of developing humanity. In our classroom spaces, we need to elevate each student's authenticity. Thus empowered, our students will be better able to develop their individual identities. Storytelling is an effective and powerful tool to elevate the authenticity of our students and, by doing so, will positively impact others around them. In this session, you will analyze different activities and lessons that can help develop the identity of your multilingual students and, also, support their linguistic and academic development. Learn how to use my book — If You Only Knew: Letters from an Immigrant Teacher — for nurturing and showcasing your students' stories and, also, your own story as an educator.

Saturday, January 18 at 9:00 - 10:45am

Inclusive Instructional Models: Co-Teachers Collaborating on Instructional Scaffolds

Multilingual learners need instructional support in the form of scaffolds to help them meet the challenging demands of content-based instruction. Such scaffolding also guides learners with acquiring the academic language needed to learn the content. In this session we will examine how co-teachers can draw on each other's strengths and select appropriate instructional scaffolds. Together we will analyze categories and examples of scaffolds to provide the kind of support that is crucial to multilingual learners.

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