Mr. Seth Ross, who his students call “Profe”, is a high school English as a Second Language, English Language Arts, Reading, United States History, and World History teacher for students new to the U.S. He defines himself as a change agent and has used his career to bring positive change to immigrant youth’s lives for 14 of his 18 years as an educator. In 2017, Seth became a participant in the ELLevate! grant (English Language Learner Educators Vested in the Advancement of Teaching Excellence), which is funded through the National Professional Development Program of the Office of English Language Acquisition.
The ELLevate! grant is committed to improving the educational outcomes of high school ELLs through providing their teachers effective professional development. Through this program, Seth has successfully completed three graduate courses focused on second language acquisition, literacy instruction, and family engagement. He has also received a scholarship to continue his graduate studies as he pursues an M. Ed. of Reading Education from Texas Woman’s University, focusing on biliteracy. He will graduate in 2020 with a Master’s degree and certificate of biliteracy, and will become a Reading Specialist through the Texas Education Agency. In addition to receiving this scholarship, Seth has also participated in various professional development sessions at his school and has received many books for his classroom, all made possible through the ELLevate! grant.
Seth comes from what he describes as humble beginnings, growing up in poverty on the Texas/Mexico border. “We grew up poor, the kind of poor where the only thing in our twenty-year-old refrigerator was a pitcher of water.” His small adobe home had bars on the windows because the neighborhood was tough—full of crime, drugs, and gangs. Although Seth is not Latino, all of his friends were Latino Spanish-speakers. Consequently, he eventually learned to speak fluent Spanish and taught his friends to speak English, foreshadowing what would become his life’s passion.
The public library became a safe haven for Seth and it is where he learned the joy of reading, although he notes that he did not have access to books with Latino or African-American characters. Then, a whole new world opened before his eyes when he discover diverse books. Seth explains: “It was 1988, and Sandra Cisneros had just published The House on Mango Street, and my freshman English teacher, Mr. Oakes, allowed us to read the book, even though it was not a district-approved text.” For the first time in his life, and the lives of his friends, Seth saw himself in a book. He says that the main character’s family, her neighborhood, and her life could have been his own. The book inspired Seth and his classmates because someone had felt it was important enough to write about people like them. The same year, his high school teacher expanded readings to include The Outsiders, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and Bless Me, Última, as well as the writings of Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Because of Seth’s love for reading, he works to instill this passion of reading in all of his students. It is important to him to recommend books that speak to his students, books that allow them to see themselves in the stories they read. Because of Seth’s upbringing, he is aware of the many challenges his high school ELLs experience when trying to learn a new language. He also recognizes the importance of literacy. A snapshot of his classroom shows books everywhere—books written by diverse authors with different experiences. Every space is filled with rich and diverse books. Seth explains, “My students can escape their difficult lives and find themselves in stories in the same way that I did. They can see that their lives and their stories are worth telling and worth listening to. In the end, I know that reading can transform their lives.”
Seth’s scholarship to receive his Master’s degree through the ELLevate! grant has already made a great impact because he has been able to apply what he is learning about second language acquisition and literacy to his classroom and share widely with others. In just his first year in the grant, he has given a presentation in his school district in how to support ELLs in the classroom, shared his classroom experiences in a podcast with the National Writing Project, and has been accepted to present at the National Council for Teachers of English. Additionally, Seth has co-authored a chapter for a book coming out in 2018 with TESOL Press, Engaging Research: Transforming Practices for the High School Classroom, and because he is so passionate about his students’ stories, he has recently started a website where they can publish their writing: Global Voices.
“Profe” Ross is certainly a change agent, making a difference in his classroom, school district, and far beyond as he influences the education of high school English Language Learners directly and indirectly through his passionate work. He recently posted a motivational message for his students on Twitter that illustrates his commitment to them: “You are capable of greatness! Never forget that!”
Page last updated 2:36 PM, September 18, 2018