Dr. Susan Morris-Rutledge leads collaboration to provide resources to school counselors and psychologists.
Cal U alumna Molly Thompson was an intern at a local school district when she encountered a new student who spoke only Spanish.
“I said, ‘Sure, I’ll meet her at the bus; I have a couple of years of Spanish,” said Thompson, who earned her master’s degree in school counseling in 2020.
Her immediate focus was “not making this the worst first day for a student.”
But a desire to do more led Thompson, now the junior high counselor at Greensburg Central Catholic High School, to contact Dr. Susan Morris-Rutledge, an associate professor in the Department of Education at Cal U.
Morris-Rutledge teaches undergraduate and graduate English as a Second Language courses required for teacher certification. She also coordinates the teacher preparation program for ESL specialists at the graduate level.
“I worked with Dr. Rutledge on what I could do with this student when I had her in my guidance classes, so that’s how the relationship started,” Thompson said.
The two collaborated on a project — “Calling All School Personnel: Helping School Counselors and Psychologists Navigate the World of PreK-12 ELL Students” — that is the foundation for a website containing resources and tools for those professionals who encounter English Language Learners.
Three Rivers TESOL (Teachers of Speakers of Other Languages) approved funding for the site, www.eslcounselors.org.
The website provides reliable, trustworthy resources in the areas of assessment, professional development, collaboration and socio-emotional resources — a “one-stop shop” for school districts.
“Administrators and classroom teachers often receive ESL training, whereas counselors and school psychologists get a little left behind,” Morris-Rutledge said.
Some districts may not have an ESL teacher; in others, one ESL specialist may support multiple schools. And when a student has behavioral or academic difficulties, a school counselor or psychologist often enters the conversation.
Joseph DiLucente is the curriculum services and ESL supervisor for Intermediate Unit 7, which serves school districts in Westmoreland County, Pa.
“The majority of the 17 districts that we serve contract with us for ESL services,” said DiLucente, who worked with Morris-Rutledge and Thompson to develop the website.
“A need that has emerged is for staff such as counselors and school psychologists to learn more about the English language needs and to make sure their supports encompass those needs.
“If we are talking about interventions that may benefit a student, we have to take language into account.”
“What are the tools to connect with students whose primary language isn’t English?” she said.
“When a teacher encounters a student who is having a particular difficulty, it’s often the counselor who needs the tools to help a student get past those hurdles.”