Jean LaForest, coordinator of Maryville College’s Public School English as a Second Language (PSESL) program, was named Educator of the Year by the Tennessee Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TNTESOL) organization. The announcement was made March 8 at a luncheon concluding the TNTESOL conference held at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Memphis.
2008 marks the first year TNTESOL has honored outstanding English as a Second Language (ESL) educators from across the state. Three ESL teachers were chosen from the regions of West, Middle and East Tennessee. As winner of the regional honor, LaForest, who was nominated by her staff, was eligible for the larger honor. According to TNTESOL, the Educator of the Year award recognizes a member “who has had a significant impact on students, colleagues, school and community programs and the field of ESL.”
“(LaForest) has shown great commitment and dedication to all of her students and staff through the years, bringing encouragement to those around her and bringing stability to the entire department, which she directs,” said TNTESOL President Judy Cleek during the award presentation. “This person is involved in in-service and consultation, teaching and directing and serving on numerous state committees, including those directed at standardizing the (English Language Development Assessment).
“A strong proponent of professional development, she serves as a model to her staff, not only encouraging their attendance and involvement in TNTESOL and (the Southeast Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages organization), but also attending and presenting papers herself,” Cleek said. “She remains current on research and demonstrates innovating techniques as a teacher and an administrator, shaping the curriculum for ESL teacher training.”
LaForest has taught in and directed the ESL program at Maryville College for more than 20 years. She coordinates Maryville and Blount County ESL programs and works with both systems to coordinate school calendars and testing. She facilitates student scheduling for classes and encourages high school graduation.
As a staff member of Maryville College, LaForest supervises ESL student teachers and presents seminars to the college’s teachers in training. She encourages Maryville High School and Maryville College students to observe and participate in ESL classrooms to promote cross-cultural understanding.
Personally, LaForest, through her church and Bridge Refugee and Sponsorship Services, helps refugees become acclimated to the United States, providing food and other items for families, as well as scholarship money for students for summer camp and field trips.
Approximately 20 years ago, she rescued a young Ethiopian boy with a heart defect. She adopted him into her family, thus allowing him the appropriate medical care. Later she helped to bring other members of his family to the United States.
As recipient of the Educator of the Year honor, LaForest was presented a plaque and cash award.