Unlocking Success: Jayme Croff’s Inspiring Journey in Multilingual Education

In this episode of the ML Chat Podcast Kim Peterson joins Justin and Tim to delve into the pivotal role of speaking for English learners. She underscores its significance as a foundation for success in reading and writing and ultimately being able to pass the state assessment. Kim also walks through her journey of building a program from the ground up and shares what she feels every new ML admin and coordinator should know. 

Join us for this enlightening discussion.

Listen in your favorite podcast provider

Integrated language support is a topic being widely discussed across the nation. School districts grapple with distributing resources to support  multilingual learners in an inclusive and meaningful way. For secondary students, finding a results-driven approach is urgently needed, as their off ramp to post-high school life is rapidly approaching. 


These are some of the challenges Jayme Croff was confronting when we had the opportunity to connect with her for our podcast, ML Chat: Conversations with Multilingual Educators. Jayme is the Multilingual Program Coordinator for Peninsula School District in Washington State and brings a warmth and vigor to her work that is inspiring. 


Jayme’s sixteen-year education career and journey has prepared her well for this role, from being a grade-level educator in elementary school to supporting an incredibly diverse student population in Edmonds, Washington as an English Language Development Specialist. Now, working in a large yet more rural school district, Jayme notes one of the benefits being that “. . . it really forces inclusion. I can’t staff ELD people in every building so the conversation has to shift toward teacher ownership and community in the classroom.” 


Throughout her career in education, Croff has witnessed how disjointed instruction can be for her students learning an additional language. She recalls, earlier in her career, having students pulled for English Language Development, which was scheduled and taught much like an intervention. “You know we can’t divorce language from any content area. It’s all completely intertwined and so why is removing a child from a room and doing something in a vacuum going to create understanding any better than the certificated teacher – the most highly qualified person to support these kids?” Jayme negotiates this truth in her current role as she’s problem solving with her team about how to best support long-term language learners in both middle school and high school. 


Jayme leans on asset-based thinking, teacher collaboration, and clearly communicated expectations for developing and supporting an integrated model for the language learners in her school district. She notes purposeful work to keep the child at the center of the conversation and decisions being made to foster environments where both families and students are heard and supported. 


Integrated English Language Development requires a true community and team commitment to work and learn together. Croff states that “. . . giving people the benefit of the doubt and sitting alongside them,” are strategies she has found fundamental for success to support teachers and paraprofessionals in her school district. She recalls her first year in Peninsula School District where she basically lived out of her truck, emphasizing how much she was driving around the district to learn from teachers, hear their stories, and connect with their needs. 


“[T]he work is hard and it’s very easy to stay in your own lane. It’s very easy to focus on what makes your program compliant . . . but I would tell somebody get out in the buildings, talk with the leaders, talk with the teachers, [and] get to know the students that are classified in your program. Ask the questions . . . what’s working, what’s not working? Get curious and also collaborate.”


[00:00:00] Justin Hewett: Hey everybody. ML chat podcast. We have a treat for you. You are going to love this episode with Jamie Croft. She is the multilingual program coordinator in the Peninsula School District, and she has so many amazing things to share with you. I loved it. This episode was fun.

[00:00:19] Justin Hewett: Today we get to welcome Jamie Croft. She is the multilingual learner coordinator for the peninsula Take two. Here we go. I can say peninsula. I promise I can. All right. We are excited to welcome Jamie Croft into our Here we go.

[00:00:43] Justin Hewett: We are excited to welcome Jamie Croft to the ML Chat podcast today. She is the ML Coordinator for Peninsula School District that’s just outside of Tacoma, Washington. And she received her teaching degree from Central Washington University and her EL endorsement from Western Washington University. Her journey into ML instruction started with her very first teaching job in Yakima, Washington, a part of Washington that is actually 75 percent Hispanic.

[00:01:11] Justin Hewett: It was at her next district, the Edmonds School District, just north of Seattle, that she made the jump into multilingual learner education as an ML specialist, and then moved into an instructional coach role focused on multilingual learners, and has really been a huge advocate for our multilingual learner students ever since.

[00:01:29] Justin Hewett: Jamie, welcome to the show. We are live with Jamie Croft. Let’s go. Let’s have some fun today. Thanks for coming and joining us.

[00:01:38] Jayme Croff: Thank you so much for having me. Hi, Justin. Hi, Mandy. Hi,

[00:01:43] Justin Hewett: welcome. We are excited to dive in. You’ve had a fun like journey in working into ML education and serving our multilingual learners.

[00:01:55] Justin Hewett: And it looks like we can go all the way back to Yakima and where you first got started. In the classroom working with fourth and fifth graders tell us a little bit about your journey, maybe, working back in that classroom in Yakima. Tell us about your experience, working with students, but also just being a new teacher.

[00:02:15] Jayme Croff: Yeah. So going to Central over in Ellensburg they Assign you a student teaching location, and I needed something close by, so I picked all the districts nearby, and they assigned me to Yakima, and I loved the school I student taught in, and I got a job. It was great. Going to teaching school, they don’t, Back then, it’s been a while, I don’t want to age myself, but when I was in school, there wasn’t a lot of talk around supporting multilingual students and putting that at the center of our learning.

[00:02:46] Jayme Croff: And so here I am, year one, and majority of my class speaks Spanish, so I had to pick up Spanish pretty quick. It was an amazing experience, but it was very different from the schooling, so it was a crash course in the reality. Of what kids need versus what the books tell you to do. And that is really the catalyst for my passion around zooming into these multilingual kids and enjoying all the gifts they bring to our system and just, it was one of those moments where I’m like, Yeah, I’m lucky to be a teacher, but I’m so lucky to be a part of these kids lives.

[00:03:22] Jayme Croff: Wow,

[00:03:23] Andrew Brandt: that’s really wonderful.

[00:03:28] Mandi Morris: When you think back, Jamie, to the start of your career, What is something when you’re thinking back to those like initial months and you’re in the classroom and your student population is so different from What you were trained up to do in your program in college What would you tell yourself now? Like all these years in and you’re looking back like what’s the advice that you would give to that teacher now?

[00:03:57] Mandi Morris: Oh my

[00:03:59] Jayme Croff: gosh so much. How can I pick just one thing? I think it’s been a while since i’ve been in the classroom and if I could go all the way back There was such pressure. I remember as a teacher like we got to get them rating They need to be at standard and while yeah, I couldn’t agree more these kids.

[00:04:17] Jayme Croff: They deserve academic rigor and we need to hold them to high academic standards. I wish I could have told little me to zoom out and see the forest through the trees and start out With that piece of these kids are coming With such assets and it’s a history and it’s a heritage and there’s so much more than what services do they need?

[00:04:40] Jayme Croff: And language isn’t an intervention and I was in a system then that was learning As it was going around how to support these kids, and I wish I could tell little me, early teacher me, to build on the assets rather than feel like it was an intervention, right? And that was that pedagogical shift.

[00:05:02] Jayme Croff: I think a lot of teachers go through when they’re lucky enough to work in a diverse setting. But I, it’s one of those things that it was such hard work and it was a lot for a new teacher, but to stop and say this is the best thing for not only your resume, but for your experience and. Going forward, I just wish I could plop every teacher in that setting early on in their career for them to see.

[00:05:28] Jayme Croff: All that comes with that learning.

[00:05:31] Justin Hewett: I love that. I love that. I love the energy and like the joy that you have as you think back to those moments and being in the classroom. And that is really cool. It just shows how in that moment you were doing everything you could to figure out how to meet the needs of your students.

[00:05:46] Justin Hewett: You’re even learning Spanish. How cool is that? I think that is really cool. I wonder maybe if you don’t mind sharing, obviously we’ve seen a lot of shifts in the way that our English learners are being served, right? You’re talking a little bit about how, hey they don’t need an intervention here, right?

[00:06:02] Justin Hewett: This is, we’re helping them learn English here. Maybe talk a little bit about what. EL instruction look like, in that building, in that classroom, back in Yakima.

[00:06:15] Jayme Croff: At the beginning, 15, this is my 16th year in Ed, so 16 years ago, we were in that pull out model structure, right? It was an intervention, it was just that checkbox like title or lab. Special education, EL. I still can picture it on the report cards. And the support structure was very much, you had the EL specialist, and often times that was a para, that would come and pull the kids, and then they would do something, and I might not know what they were working on, or I may have known and then they would come back to class, and then I would continue teaching.

[00:06:48] Jayme Croff: We all know that’s not effective, and it didn’t improve scores, and so that was when I started examining what are we doing all day for these kids? We can’t, you can’t divorce language from any content area. It’s all completely intertwined. And so why is removing a child from a room and doing something in a vacuum going to create understanding any better than the certificated teacher, the most highly qualified person to support these kids could do.

[00:07:18] Jayme Croff: So yeah, back then it was pull out, it was intervention based. It was the check the box for services. And I put that in quotes because that is such a loaded term. So now obviously a big mission that we’re all on across the state. But specifically in my role is inclusionary practice. How do we move that pendulum into bringing a holistic approach to language learning for kids?

[00:07:45] Justin Hewett: I love that. And I’m excited to dive into that a little bit more. We’ll unpack that and we’ll jump into that. And I think it’s been a journey, right? It’s been an evolution. We’ve had a lot of learning along the way but we felt like that was the best thing to do at the time.

[00:07:58] Justin Hewett: And but, it’s interesting to hear you say, we know it’s not effective. Now, as looking back, why do you think we, we went that direction maybe first and then maybe a second add on question to that is maybe unpack for anybody that in some parts of the country might still be using a pullout model, how to potentially evolve away from that.

[00:08:24] Jayme Croff: I think there’s a lot of reasons I took a fascinating class years ago around the socioeconomic reasons why we make the educational decisions we do in our country. And that’s one component, but I think a big part of it is I tapped on the topic of what services mean. And I think back then, services was based on deficit language.

[00:08:49] Jayme Croff: The language in the collaboration was This kid’s low, they need X. Or, this kid’s not getting blank, so they need X. I think the model, the reason why we went that route is, they had a deficit, and that intervention pull out model was the answer to provide. They were in need of something.

[00:09:09] Jayme Croff: So we’re going to give them something extra. And I think the shift happened when we started changing, when we change the way we talk, we change the way we think. And I think when we started changing the way we talk about our multilingual kids and we started shifting it to asset based language, that’s when you started to see the needle move a little bit more.

[00:09:32] Justin Hewett: Oh my gosh, I love the way you said, when we change the way we talk, we change the way we think.

[00:09:40] Justin Hewett: It’s amazing how important the words are that we use and the power that we give them, right? Like the labels that we use, the way that we refer to something, like it really is powerful. I’d love for you to maybe talk more about that.

[00:09:57] Jayme Croff: Washington’s finally catching up. There’s been a lot of nationwide initiatives around moving toward asset based language. The way we assess the students, the way we communicate those scores, the way we talk to teachers about kids. It… There were some things happening organically in buildings, but it wasn’t top down systemic language change.

[00:10:18] Jayme Croff: And now in Washington, we use the WIDA can do descriptors, major shift. Instead of saying, oh, the child’s a two and listening, they can’t do this or this. So you as a teacher need to do all this. Now it’s, Hey, that child’s a two in listening. That means they’ve acquired all of this in level one.

[00:10:35] Jayme Croff: They’re operating here. And here’s that next step We’re gonna teach to level three right here. And not only is That language shift, but it’s what’s based in research You know that zone of proximal development just going to the next rung on the ladder not making them reach too far So it’s a win to talk about our kids In that way.

[00:10:55] Jayme Croff: And again, sometimes we group kids teaching’s hard, being in education is hard, and compartmentalizing is a survival tactic, and it’s smart. But when we start checking these boxes, when it comes to an ML kiddo, it can be dangerous, because it’s not necessarily some quantitative thing that you can check.

[00:11:16] Jayme Croff: There’s so much more to consider, and I think that the, our language is so key in not only when I provide professional development or when I was a teacher, but I think that’s that grassroots stuff that has to happen to make. Appropriate change, just not a fad, not a pendulum swing, but appropriate change for these kids.

[00:11:38] Mandi Morris: . So we talked a little bit about the start of your career and what that was like. And take us on the journey from there.

[00:11:45] Mandi Morris: Where did you transition from being a classroom teacher and learning so much all at once about multilingual education? And how did you move forward from there in your next steps in education being a teacher? Thank

[00:12:04] Jayme Croff: Yeah, so I wanted to move back west. I’m from the west side of the mountains here in Washington, and I wanted to be closer to family and friends.

[00:12:10] Jayme Croff: It was really hard to leave Yakima. I loved those kids and those families. It was amazing. I got a job at, it was fate to get the job where I did at a school in Edmonds. And there were over 200, at the time it was labeled EL, there were 200 EL students in one building. And the difference was I went from Yakima where almost every student was from Mexico and almost every student spoke Spanish.

[00:12:38] Jayme Croff: And then I came to Edmonds and in one third grade class, I’d have 13 different languages. And so it was like coming to work at the UN. I had everything and I, it was a huge shift. I went from, how do I support this Spanish speaker? To, how do I support these children that are coming from all around the world with all different languages?

[00:13:01] Jayme Croff: Oh, I need to consider that there’s different alphabets, my Arabic speaking student is going to need a very different type of support than my Spanish speaking student, so Edmonds was like that level up, and I didn’t expect that. It was something that happened the first day in my work at Edmonds where I went, oh, this is not the same.

[00:13:19] Jayme Croff: Supporting a multilingual learner, it’s different per kid. And especially in a room where you have, cultures from all around the world represented. It was amazing. Yeah,

[00:13:29] Justin Hewett: so you weren’t able to go and learn 13 different languages. You had to level up. You had to have a different approach. I love that.

[00:13:37] Jayme Croff: If I got a dime for every time a person who wasn’t in education said, Oh, so do you know all the languages of your students? Is that how you support them? When I told them, Oh, I’m an EL specialist. They’re like, how many languages do you know? And I’m like, Fairly one. Okay, so yeah, it was an interesting shift.

[00:13:56] Justin Hewett: Oh my goodness, and how different was The EL programming for you when you went to Edmonds, you know when you’re leaving Yakima making that transition Obviously you’re telling us a little bit about the makeup of your students, the UN type experience. But how different was the EL programming for the district?

[00:14:19] Jayme Croff: It wasn’t very different. Still, this was over a decade ago, and there was a lot of pullout. There were two EL teachers in that certificated staff that were doing pullout and teacher support at the time. But when my classroom, the one thing that was confusing is my classroom had such a varied range of need and so many languages that there were times where I thought, what?

[00:14:46] Jayme Croff: That would mean almost all my class goes out. And so then it was a little more triage where the newcomers would be pulled during an intervention walk. But then as a couple of years went by I started making connections with the EL teachers and realized that I can serve them in my class. I just need your help.

[00:15:07] Jayme Croff: So that kind of started that coaching system. And then I was approached by our amazing director, shout out Gretchen if you ever hear this who said, I think you need to go back to school and you need to get your EL endorsement and you’re coming to our side of the fence. And I did. And then I partnered with that EL teacher.

[00:15:26] Jayme Croff: And that’s when the shift went from pull out to co planning, co teaching collaborative practice to get those kids included in the building.

[00:15:38] Mandi Morris: I would love to hear you speak more about that, Jamie. Just the mind shift it takes in a building and you lived that to move from a pullout system to a co teaching, co planning system. Can you talk a little bit about what was that transition like for you in the building? What was it like Convincing teachers to get on board with that new model.

[00:16:05] Mandi Morris: And what was the impact for students in their day to day experience at school? For

[00:16:12] Jayme Croff: anybody

[00:16:15] Jayme Croff: to building support person or a leader, it is a mind blowing experience. I think it’s the most pivotal learning in my career. Because you go in your classroom and you think, That’s what everybody does. The fish doesn’t know it’s wet. This is just how we do it. And then you zoom out, and then you’re a part of all these other learning communities.

[00:16:40] Jayme Croff: You’re like, whoa, this teacher’s brilliant. Look what they’re doing over here. I need to get into that. That’s great. Or, oh, we’re standing and delivering. We got to work on some things here for our students. And seeing the variation in practice. blew my mind. And that also meant there was a variation in belief and a variation in support for our students.

[00:17:02] Jayme Croff: It was tricky, but that luckily was the majority of my learning and my endorsement program is how to come alongside teachers and support them. And I had really good models too. We had a lot of really amazing instructional coaches that were so good at showing me how to roll up the sleeves with teachers and be a peer and be a learner with them.

[00:17:26] Jayme Croff: And approach it with curiosity. I had the secret sauce because I was a teacher in that building. So I had connections and I had that family vibe with them. But I have to say, honestly, I’d be lying if I said it’s not really difficult to be in that coach role with teachers and and try to keep students at the center of things.

[00:17:45] Jayme Croff: It was interesting.

[00:17:47] Justin Hewett: Oh, I can imagine. I can imagine that would be a difficult transition. I, it really resonates with me when you talked about the variation from one classroom to the next where in some we’ve got, a very conversational model where students are a part of it or it’s, it’s been, it, the classroom has been flipped or whatever it might be versus a classroom where it’s a lot more stand and deliver what do you think lends itself to so much variation?

[00:18:13] Justin Hewett: Cause that’s within the same building. You’ve got The same instructional leaders in that building, what is it that lends itself to having so much variation from one classroom to the next?

[00:18:26] Jayme Croff: I think strong PLCs and strong team planning equals less variation. And when you have teacher turnover or new teams or a lack of trust or a lack of systems for teaming, that’s when you see teachers doing their own thing, shutting their door. Yeah, the curiosity is lost in my experience, I feel like when you walk into a building and teach and it’s that collaborative time and teachers are all in one room and they’ve got their plan books out and they’re all, working smarter, not harder on co planning things.

[00:18:59] Jayme Croff: That’s when you start to see elevated instruction, but also consistent instruction. I think you could have a really strong building leader, but unless your grade level teams, you or your departments are solid and trusting and collaborative, you’re always going to see great variation.

[00:19:18] Justin Hewett: And so what does that strong PLC?

[00:19:20] Justin Hewett: What is that strong plan? What does that look like? If you were to break that down, let’s say that the teachers, are meeting in their PLC. They’ve got 40 minutes, right? 45 minutes, something like that. What does that look like? How do they use their time? What data are they looking at?

[00:19:36] Justin Hewett: How are they collaborating and planning? Yeah. Detail that out, please.

[00:19:41] Jayme Croff: Yeah I’ve been so lucky. When I was a classroom teacher, I had amazing teams, for the most part. And they were so collaborative. And the things that really worked is there were systems in place that offered us time.

[00:19:54] Jayme Croff: So we had cut out, we had common planning time, and we had late start days, and we had a mission, we had objectives, we knew what we needed to do. So that’s that top down system that has to be in place. And then I think the second most important thing is everyone has to equally value the data. It has to be data informed.

[00:20:14] Jayme Croff: If you go into planning and it just turns into a problem mess rather than a solving mess, It’s not very productive. So when we work backwards from, oh, the latest dibble scores are out, or let’s take a look at that formative assessment we gave on Thursday, what are we gonna do? What small groups do we wanna work with?

[00:20:32] Jayme Croff: What are the concerns that we have? What are the things, the challenges that these kids need to be faced with? And then another thing that just really works is to get teacher buy-in for things like this, you have to build capacity and not add something to their plate. And I think sometimes encouraging teams, Say, Hey, this week, I’m going to write all of our math objectives.

[00:20:54] Jayme Croff: I’m going to zoom in on this math unit. I’m going to look for some scaffolds for what’s coming down in our geometry unit, and then you are going to work on the reading objectives and you’re going to dive into that unit, and then we’re going to share each other’s stuff and tweak it and make it our own, but we’re going to help each other in the process.

[00:21:10] Jayme Croff: Rather than everybody doing everything, taking turns of lightening each other’s load, Hey, this really worked in my classroom. Do you want to try it tomorrow? That is what keeps them coming back for more is when it’s not one more thing, but it’s a capacity builder

[00:21:27] Justin Hewett: I love hearing you unpack that and talk through that that’s really fun to hear.

[00:21:31] Justin Hewett: It’s fun to hear you break that down

[00:21:37] Mandi Morris: Do you want to move from here into? Like a more current role. Is this good timing?

[00:21:44] Justin Hewett: Yeah, let’s ask how So you let’s, yeah, let’s ask how she came to be in this role. I love that idea. Let’s do

[00:21:53] Mandi Morris: it. Jamie moving, to where you are now, tell us about how you came to be in the role where you are. What led you there and what’s your day like? What’s your passion like now in this role that you’re in?

[00:22:06] Jayme Croff: Yeah, I I’m not far from Edmonds now. We’re a couple hours south. All my friends and some family live down here.

[00:22:13] Jayme Croff: So we have a little one now. So it was more personal reasons that brought me down here. And it was very serendipitous. I checked the website to see if they possibly had any sort of ML positions open. And that day they had posted one. So I applied and the stars aligned and here I am. It’s been a huge shift professionally for me because in Peninsula School District, we have about 250 MLs K 12 and I’m used to that under one roof.

[00:22:41] Jayme Croff: So it’s been really fun. It’s a whole different set of challenges. Some people might think, Oh, that’s easy. That’s less kids, but we’re very large geographically, but our numbers are small. So really finding thoughtful systems to put in place for those kids is tricky. And it’s a fun challenge for me.

[00:23:02] Jayme Croff: But finding myself in this role has been my favorite role so far. I love being able to look at big picture. When I

[00:23:10] Mandi Morris: think about what you’re describing and going from a school district as big as admins to where you are now, resources shift. And that also means that personnel shifts. And I think it’s so interesting that you’ve worked in different sized school districts because you’ve been able to experience firsthand What is it like for an English learner in a smaller school district that’s spread out and likely there are fewer teachers throughout the school district that are accredited or certified in, multilingual education?

[00:23:46] Mandi Morris: What has that piece been like? Like when you think about structures, talk about that a little bit more. Like how do you serve students in more of a rural environment that you’re in?

[00:23:57] Jayme Croff: I think there’s pluses and minuses. The benefit is it really forces inclusion. Because I can’t staff EL people in every building.

[00:24:05] Jayme Croff: So the conversation has to shift toward teacher ownership and community in the classroom. That’s why we have an EL coach or an ML coach now. The hard part is what you had mentioned. There’s not a lot of teachers. that necessarily have their endorsement or the credentials to serve multilingual learners because it hasn’t necessarily been needed here.

[00:24:33] Jayme Croff: There are pockets of teachers who’ve come from other districts that have a ton of knowledge in this field. But for the most part, a lot of these teachers have been here in this community and this is what they know. So it is tricky to figure out how do we get Teaching for teachers to talk about things.

[00:24:50] Jayme Croff: I’m used to the teachers talking about it. It’s the air we breathe. And then I come here and they’re like, wait, what does that mean? I’ve had to figure out systems, like, how do I bring cohorts of teachers together? Now, do we do Zoom PD? Do we do asynchronous work? Do I do a release day and bring them together?

[00:25:05] Jayme Croff: It’s a push and a pull and it’s a fun little dance because it depends on the teacher. I always say good leadership is just great teaching. All the things that are effective in teaching, I think are the same things that are effective in leadership. So you have to get to know the teachers, you have to get to know the staff, figure out where they’re at and support them right where they are.

[00:25:24] Jayme Croff: So it’s a multi prong approach. We do have specialists who serve of course our newcomers and our highest needs, but then we have that instructional coach Tosa type position and she’s out there really diving into that co planning piece and Coming alongside the teachers like I did in a previous role, and then I’m doing kind of the big system, PD, whole group stuff.

[00:25:47] Justin Hewett: I can tell you love scheming and thinking about it from the big perspective. How do we serve everybody? How do we get everybody on the same page? What data can I look at? I love hearing about that. How long have you been in this role now?

[00:26:01] Jayme Croff: This is my second year in this role.

[00:26:04] Justin Hewett: Okay. So this is your second year. You learned so much. I bet your first year. What was day one like when you stepped into this role and you’re trying to figure out, okay, what am I, what did I just get myself into? This is an awesome opportunity. It’s right where I want it to be.

[00:26:20] Justin Hewett: It feels like the stars all aligned to bring me here. What do I have here in front of me now? What did you do first? Like how did you understand what you were going to go do? Maybe talk us through those first, that first week or something.

[00:26:36] Jayme Croff: I am a note taker and a question asker. I had great advice my first year of teaching.

[00:26:41] Jayme Croff: She said, your early years, you get on every committee, but you sit in the back with a notebook and a pen. And it was the best advice I’ve ever been given because obviously as you’re learning, I’m a talker and I love to process and I love to do, and I like to create, but I don’t we’ve all been under leadership where people shoot from the hip and I am really aiming not to do that.

[00:27:02] Jayme Croff: So I think being really well informed about where things are is how you can make them go in the right direction. So I met with a lot of people. I asked a lot of questions. I took a lot of notes. So the first A couple of months was, where are we? What is going on? Historically, what has happened? How have we used our TBIP and Title III funding?

[00:27:24] Jayme Croff: Who are we employing and why are we employing them? Just taking the temperature, lots of surveys, getting to know the teachers, getting out in the buildings. I basically lived out of my truck with a backpack on. I was going from building to building to building and talking to people and just being in classrooms and watching.

[00:27:41] Jayme Croff: And I think that’s it definitely served me because now I feel like my team is in the right places at the right times for support.

[00:27:52] Justin Hewett: Is there any specific data you were looking at as you were, stepping into the role? You earlier, you said it has to be data informed. And so obviously you’re doing all these different surveys. You were in data gathering mode yourself. Is there any specific data that you feel like made the difference?

[00:28:15] Jayme Croff: Anecdotally, how often kids were talking and engaged in the learning and not in receptive mode was a huge data point. It told me a lot about the belief of the teacher, the belief of the leaders in the building, another piece of data is which schools were calling me the most about, I have a newcomer, help me, what’s going on?

[00:28:41] Jayme Croff: Or, I have a family that speaks Spanish, can you call them for me? I don’t know what’s going on with attendance. Or, I would try to seek out the quieter schools. What’s going on here that’s not going on over there? And that was the data I was pulling. Who needs me and why? And Where is each building or each teacher’s sticking point?

[00:29:04] Mandi Morris: I really appreciate Jamie and the way that you talk about leadership. I knew a principal years ago who said, your first year in a building, you should do nothing but observe and learn and listen. And that sounds like similar advice that you got at the beginning of your career as a teacher. And I think it’s such valuable advice.

[00:29:28] Mandi Morris: As teachers, there are a lot of us that are very type A doers, organizers, we like structure, we like creating structure. And sometimes what we don’t necessarily have enough of around us in our career is let’s take a minute. To look at the big picture, to look at what are the root causes of this end outcome.

[00:29:52] Mandi Morris: How can we get there? Because we have these kids in front of us and there’s a lot of pressure to fix it all right now. And that is a very difficult tight rope to walk in education, to take the time to observe and learn and strategize so that you can create systems that are meaningful versus that gut reaction of trying to whack a mole all day long.

[00:30:18] Mandi Morris: Whether you’re in a classroom as a teacher or in leadership like you are, how have you found That balance. Do you have any advice for other people in similar roles in finding that balance and creating space for it? Yeah,

[00:30:34] Jayme Croff: My advice for anybody in a role is don’t assume because like I mentioned earlier, this isn’t just some Qualitative box to check.

[00:30:44] Jayme Croff: It’s not oh they scored intensive on their dibbles So we’re going to give them this curriculum reading instruction a half hour a day. There’s something so much more to these kids and their backgrounds. And if a teacher is in that whack a mole mode or that panic mode, it’s easy to assume, Oh, they just don’t believe in these kids or, Oh, they must have a bias here.

[00:31:04] Jayme Croff: Or, I think it’s really important to slow down. Ask questions and model the fact that it’s okay to feel vulnerable here and it’s okay as teachers when you have something new that you don’t feel confident in, that means you care. So giving people the benefit of the doubt and sitting alongside them and what’s worked for me is storytelling.

[00:31:27] Jayme Croff: I try to bring it always back to the student and their families. And a lot of teachers are parents. And if they’re not, they love kids. And so when you talk about the kids and you put them at the center and you get really specific You usually see the shoulders drop, the walls crumble down, and then the ears open, and they’re ready to, get down to it for what they need to do to serve the kids.

[00:31:52] Justin Hewett: Oh, I love that. That means so much to me. That really resonates with me. At Flashlight Learning, we’re building Flashlight 360. We have decisions to make all the time about, what we’re building in the product or how we deliver a service or how we do some of the things that we do.

[00:32:08] Justin Hewett: And really what we’ve done is we’ve said, Hey, we are going to do whatever is best for students first and foremost. And so we try to keep, the students and the children we’re serving at the top of mind and central to everything we’re doing. And it does exactly what you just said is it cuts through all the clutter.

[00:32:26] Justin Hewett: It, there’s all these other competing priorities or ideas. And really when it’s when you reframe it and it’s what’s best for. The student, right? What’s best for these students? All of a sudden it, it becomes really clear and I love that, if you start with the students, that’s, that, that makes a big difference.

[00:32:44] Justin Hewett: I love that you’re here, you’re in your second year, you made it through the first year. It’s so much learning, so much growth. You’re meeting everybody for the first time. You’re learning the product, the program, Finding out where the schools are, probably got lost a couple times, you’re in your second year.

[00:33:01] Justin Hewett: You obviously have a focus for this year, right? Like you have a few things that you’re really looking at putting extra emphasis on or whatever that might be. Tell us about that. What is your focus or what are your goals for, this second year?

[00:33:17] Jayme Croff: It’s a good question. We just had an all day meeting with my team and I’m just, I’m really spoiled. The women that I support and work with are mountain movers and they make my job really easy. They do great work and they are so student centered. And we talked about, we looked at where we were. Yes. Not yesterday.

[00:33:37] Jayme Croff: Last year feels like yesterday. We looked at where we were last year data wise. And then we looked at more recent data. Yeah. And then we just reflected on what our personal missions are in this work, and then as a whole, what do we really want to… to do this year. And a big thing is we have a group of long termers that are in middle school that entered the program in like kinder first grade and it’s an academic language thing.

[00:34:03] Jayme Croff: We know this story. It’s the oldest one. These students should not be pulled from instruction. They should be supported in the classroom. But it’s tricky when they’re in middle school and they’re going from class to class and there’s a lot of different teaching styles. There’s a lot of code switching for these kids.

[00:34:18] Jayme Croff: So I shuffled around some of my staff and I have a really highly qualified person who’s supporting middle school and really zooming in on the instruction and all the content areas. And how are we supporting that academic language acquisition in those middle grades to get them to really be able to read and write confidently with ease in English.

[00:34:42] Jayme Croff: Set them up for high school. So that’s a big push this year. Last year we had our state audit And so I got to roll up my sleeves and get down to the nitty gritty about every little thing Dial it all in and then this year is more of What program offerings are we going to shift to better our students?

[00:35:02] Justin Hewett: I love that. So you went through a state audit and the Jamie Croft audit. You had two audits in one year. I love it. That’s right.

[00:35:15] Mandi Morris: When you talk about Secondary English learners. That’s really at my heart. I was a middle school teacher for years both ELA and as an ELD specialist and like you being in the classroom and then being an ELD specialist, you have the gift of seeing things from both perspectives. And when I hear you talk about your students in middle school that are.

[00:35:40] Mandi Morris: stuck in their language proficiency and they aren’t able to move into that owning and really being able to manipulate the academic language and utilize it for success. What does that look like in your inclusive classroom in your middle school and high school programs? How are you Supporting students in those core content classes.

[00:36:05] Mandi Morris: Tell us a little bit about what that structure looks like and what is this shift like for the core content teachers?

[00:36:13] Jayme Croff: Yeah, so we have our ML cert supporting those teachers, and then the coach and I also are supporting building wide movements and PD at staff meetings and working with the leaders as well.

[00:36:26] Jayme Croff: So we all have common language. But when you walk into the classroom, the shift really is from maybe we read the path, the science passage, and then we do the activity, but we’re really moving it toward how are the kids processing the vocabulary before diving into that piece of text? How is it visually represented?

[00:36:46] Jayme Croff: And then usually the teacher goes, Oh, that the light bulb went off for that student or for all of my students, because really what we know is. Highly effective and crucial for our multilingual students is also beneficial for all kids. And that’s, so you start to see the effects and the happiness of the teachers improve.

[00:37:05] Jayme Croff: But really, I think the biggest thing that we’re shifting toward is getting these kids to express language, getting a middle, you know this, Fannie, getting a middle schooler to speak and use that academic language and not only be in receptive mode, but. Talk about it, write about it, draw a picture about it, be flexible on how they express it, but getting kids to play with it, get messy with it, like you said, manipulate it.

[00:37:31] Jayme Croff: That’s really what we’re coaching teachers to do right now instead of the stand and deliver. Here’s this Here’s our agenda today. You do that and then turn something in It’s more of how can we be in this collaborative learning environment in the classroom?

[00:37:47] Mandi Morris: What I saw a lot over the years is that by middle school Students had done a lot of raising their hands And giving an answer and being told that was wrong and then asking the next kid in class.

[00:38:01] Mandi Morris: And by the time you’re in middle school, you are definitely self aware enough and have learned the systems well enough to know that doesn’t feel good and I don’t want to do that anymore. So how do we create classrooms that invite students to participate with productive language in a way that doesn’t feel like I caught you doing it wrong but is assets driven and enables students opportunities to practice that academic language so that they can own it for themselves and not feel like an imposter when they use it.

[00:38:34] Mandi Morris: And it’s really cool to hear how you’re working with your schools to create that environment.

[00:38:43] Justin Hewett: So I have absolutely loved talking through your journey, Jamie, and hearing your perspectives and and really, this evolution of EL. I actually almost just said EL services, right? Like that’s ingrained. It’s about the language we use, though, but about how we serve our multilingual learners.

[00:39:04] Justin Hewett: There we go. There’s a better way to say that. And I guess it’s been fun. It’s evident in everything that you said and shared with us today, but I want to ask. I want to call it out specifically, Jamie. What is it that has drawn you to serving our multilingual learners? Like why?

[00:39:19] Justin Hewett: There’s a lot of different places in education that you could have been drawn to or gone to. Why are you here?

[00:39:29] Jayme Croff: There’s a few things. Selfishly, these families and these kids, have added so much to my life. I don’t know how I could ever repay the gifts that they’ve given me and the lessons that they’ve taught me.

[00:39:41] Jayme Croff: Being in this role of advocacy and support it’s a, it’s also continuously feeding me too. So there’s my selfish plug, but really it’s a story. When I was in Edmonds, I was like month one of being out of the classroom. I was an EL specialist. It was open house night and our families were there and I hooked them all up with the interpreters they needed.

[00:40:09] Jayme Croff: And I had a little table outside of my office saying, come learn about your EL services for your child. And a mom that I had yet to meet stops me and asked to go into my office. And she, they were from Nepal, this family was from Nepal, and she also spoke very clear English. And she shut the door behind her and started sobbing.

[00:40:32] Jayme Croff: And she handed me a piece of paper that had the Fontas and Pinel reading levels on it, and B was highlighted in red. And she said, My daughter in Nepal was top of her class. She was so smart. The teachers always said that she was the smartest girl in class and she’s going to do so much with her life someday.

[00:40:53] Jayme Croff: And then we come here, and they said it was low. And now my kid’s dumb. And she was just broken, and you could see the sense of pride washing away from her eyes when she talked about her daughter, and it, I think that was the moment where I knew I wanted to be in leadership in this role, and I wanted to make change, and I We have to shift the way we think about these students and their families and we have to shift the way that we support them in our schools.

[00:41:28] Jayme Croff: And they just deserve so much and I think that was the moment where I was like, this isn’t an instructional thing. This is so much more than that and we need leaders that see that side of it too.

[00:41:41] Justin Hewett: And you were called to the work. I love it. Yeah. That’s amazing. What a story. Yeah.

[00:41:51] Justin Hewett: Where where’s that little girl now?

[00:41:55] Jayme Croff: She has graduated high school and she’s going to college to be a doctor. I still hear from that mom. I’ve made sure that as I’ve moved on, they have my updated email address and I get pictures. I always cry when they send me the cap and gown photos and the graduation announcements.

[00:42:15] Jayme Croff: And she’s written YouTube channel. It’s really fun to see where these kids go and The mom was right. She was brilliant and she’s gonna do big things. It’s just a matter of how we talk about and talk to this community.

[00:42:32] Justin Hewett: It really circles back to something you said earlier, which is, we have to change the way we talk, which will help us change the way we think and the way that we talk about our students, talk to our students, talk to our parents, the way that we’re doing these things, it really does, there’s a big shift there and we can tell.

[00:42:52] Justin Hewett: that there was a big shift that happened in you that day. I’m sure to some degree you were already doing a lot of these things, but you just it really resonated probably that from a leadership role, you felt like you could impact change even more. This is fun to hear, and it’s amazing to hear about this little girl that was struggling and now she’s going to medical school or she wants to go to be a doctor.

[00:43:14] Justin Hewett: Like how amazing is that? What a story. How cool. Oh my gosh. That’s amazing.

[00:43:23] Jayme Croff: And she’s bilingual and biliterate. So there we go. She’s gonna, she’s gonna do more for her community too.

[00:43:30] Justin Hewett: Jamie we know that you have a program to run and you have things to do. So we definitely we have appreciated being able to spend this time with you and learn from you and have this wonderful conversation, getting to know you better.

[00:43:43] Justin Hewett: I am confident that a lot of people, are going to want to reach out to you and just continue this conversation and talk about, going through this shift of pull out to being more inclusive and, just a number of these things and the way we talk and so in just a minute, I’ll ask you maybe where they can reach out to you from but maybe as the last last question, if you could share a word with another EL educator that’s on this journey, that’s earlier on this journey that you’ve gone on and maybe they’re early on in their career, or maybe they’re early on, as a director or coordinator what would you share with them that you feel like could make all the difference?

[00:44:24] Jayme Croff: The work is hard and it’s very easy to stay in your own lane. It’s very easy to focus on what makes your program compliant and, stay within your lines. But I would tell somebody, get out, get in the buildings, talk with the leaders, talk with the teachers, get to know the students that are classified in your program.

[00:44:46] Jayme Croff: Ask the questions of the people that are working in your department, too. What’s working, what’s not working. Get curious. And also, collaborate with the other decision makers. I really at the ESC level, instead of just closing my door, I want to talk to the people who are making curricular decisions for the district.

[00:45:04] Jayme Croff: Whether it’s science, math, ELA anything. Just making sure that you’re looking at the whole the whole day of the child. And really… Chiming into the systems that are across the board. And try really hard to zoom out from time to time. Put some time in your calendar to just not be in the office.

[00:45:23] Jayme Croff: Be out there, boots on the ground, and see what’s really happening for our kids. Because that’s the information you need to build systems and make change. And you’re never going to go wrong if it’s for the kids. If it’s for a box to check, that’s a different story, but when it’s for the kids, you’re usually going to hit the mark.

[00:45:46] Mandi Morris: I love how you highlighted there the collaboration that’s needed in buildings between teachers. You also have to model in your role in leadership. And that type of cross collaboration benefits students. Such a big way. So it’s just really cool to hear you highlight that and that feed, feed that feedback that you would give or that advice that you would give.

[00:46:16] Justin Hewett: Yeah. Fantastic stuff. Are you kidding me? Get out. Go listen. Go be a part of it. Go give yourself a seat at the table where all the decisions are being made so you can advocate for the students you’re serving. I love it, Jamie. So fantastic. What an opportunity for us to sit down with you. All right, Jamie, where can people, if they want to continue this conversation how can they reach out to you?

[00:46:37] Justin Hewett: What’s the best way for them to

[00:46:38] Jayme Croff: contact you? Yeah. I would encourage anybody to email me. My email’s croffjatpsd401. net. I’d love to chat with other leaders in this community.

[00:46:52] Justin Hewett: Fantastic. Okay. We’ll drop that in the show notes to make it easy for those of you that. That want to reach out to Jamie.

[00:46:59] Justin Hewett: Jamie, thank you so much for being on the ML chat podcast.

[00:47:05] Jayme Croff: Thank you so much for having me.

[00:47:06] Justin Hewett: Thanks everybody for listening to the ML chat podcast. This episode was brought to you by flashlight learning. Flashlight learning

[00:47:23] Justin Hewett: is the exclusive provider of flashlight 360, the language platform that districts are using across the nation. to progress monitor speaking and writing. With Flashlight 360, they’re able to turn speaking into data in a way that teachers and educators across the nation have never had access to before. If you’d like to learn more, please visit Flashlight360.

[00:47:53] Justin Hewett: com. Flashlight360. com.

[00:48:00] Jayme Croff: When I was in Edmonds, I was like month one of being out of the classroom. I was an EL specialist. It was open house night and our families were there and I hooked them all up with the interpreters they needed.

[00:48:14] Jayme Croff: And I had a little table outside of my office saying, come learn about your EL services for your child. And a mom that I had yet to meet stops me and asked to go into my office. And she, they were from Nepal, this family was from Nepal, and she also spoke very clear English. And she shut the door behind her and started sobbing.

[00:48:37] Jayme Croff: And she handed me a piece of paper that had the Fontas and Pinel reading levels on it, and B was highlighted in red. And she said, My daughter in Nepal was top of her class. She was so smart. The teachers always said that she was the smartest girl in class and she’s going to do so much with her life someday.

[00:48:58] Jayme Croff: And then we come here, and they said it was low. And now my kid’s dumb. And she was just broken, and you could see the sense of pride washing away from her eyes when she talked about her daughter, and it, I think that was the moment where I knew I wanted to be in leadership in this role, and I wanted to make change, and I We have to shift the way we think about these students and their families and we have to shift the way that we support them in our schools.

[00:49:33] Jayme Croff: And they just deserve so much and I think that was the moment where I was like, this isn’t an instructional thing. This is so much more than that and we need leaders that see that side of it too.


Download the State Language Assessment Checklist

Fill out this short form and we’ll send you the State Language Assessment Checklist for quick reference.