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“It’s not enough to have language instruction as an add-on; instead, we need all teachers to develop a language lens. This means we need language to be more explicit and attended to in not just core classrooms, but also in every discipline across a school.” – Sarah B. Ottow
For the past two decades, Ottow has partnered with countless school districts and companies nationally and internationally. The focus is on reinforcing relationship skills and value-identification of the ever-growing ELL population while improving student outcomes and profitability within organizations. With Ottow’s extensive and diverse background in identifying the needs of faculty, students, and employees coupled with her education in curriculum and social justice, she creates programs and tools tailored to the exact needs of each organization and population of English learners.
It began with Ottow’s memories of watching a sibling with extensive medical and learning challenges navigate her education, as well as her parents fighting for their child’s basic educational rights and having to become empowered and educated on the law and holding schools accountable. She began as a teacher at the ground level of one of the country’s most economically and demographically challenging inner-city populations, the North Side of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she faced what so many teachers face: high-class numbers, and needing to support learning, emotional and physical needs of a multilingual population of students in poverty while achieving state and district test score goals. She then aspired to live in her students’ shoes by living and working in Puerto Rico for almost two years as a voluntary language learner.
Ottow accrued more experience teaching, coaching, and leading in some most challenging teaching and instructional coaching situations in WI and MA schools, as well as more recently across the country and internationally, including workplace ESL for professionals and adult literacy programming. She also has worked closely with some of the most innovative organizations within education and the corporate space. Ottow has a Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on social justice in urban education and has not only taught graduate courses for teachers and leaders but also led an innovative ELL teacher residency Masters program. Within the context of school districts and globalizing corporations, Ottow set out with determination to identify the opportunities these populations presented to the world, learn hands-on with them, and attain the skills necessary to address and advance them forward. And with this, she branched out to start her own business, Confianza, equipped with tried and true techniques and tools applicable within schools and companies alike. She will have earned her Professional Certificate in Innovative Leadership & Business in Fall of 2018 from Bryant University.
Ottow’s accomplishments and accolades include being an invited speaker for the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s first English Learners Leadership Summit, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Arts Teaching Artist Retreat, Colorado TESOL, VirtuEL, and New York City Special Education Collaborative’s Conference on The Intersection of Equity and Inclusion, plus conference presentations at ASCD, Learning Forward, National Service Learning Conference, Wisconsin State Reading Association, Rethinking Schools’ Anti-Bias Anti-Racist Teaching Conference, WiTESOL and MATSOL. Publications by Ottow has been featured in GettingSmart, Teaching Channel and MATSOL while interviews of Ottow have been published in the Annenberg Institute’s Voice in Urban Education, Gates’ College Ready, Boston Voyager Magazine, LessonPick, Re-imagining Migration and CoTESOL. She has consulted for the WIDA Consortium, the Center for Applied Linguistics with WestEd, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and has facilitated the ELL Teacher Leader Team of FabFive Squadsters and resource collection for Teaching Channel’s ELL Deep Dive, including the featuring of key Confianza clients’ classrooms that have been filmed and shared around the world.