Daniel Blank and the Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) Newcomer Academy Team provide students who have recently arrived in the country with opportunities to develop English language skills in an environment that views students’ stories, language of origin and culture of origin as assets. This asset-based approach sets Daniel and the Newcomer Academy teachers apart. Rather than viewing students’ language of origin as a hindrance or their journeys to Oklahoma as something to sluff off, Newcomer Academy teachers encourage students to identify their skills and values and to bring those to the task of learning English.
Newcomer Academy teachers have created Project VOICE to elevate the narratives of English Language Learners in OKCPS. Through Project VOICE, students leverage their growing language skills to reflect on their journeys and share their stories in a book that is published by the district and made available to the community. Learning to read in English is a huge accomplishment for English Language Learners and Project VOICE underscores for each of these students that it’s not just someone else’s story that is worth reading. Theirs are too.