September 22, 2020

Magee fosters human connections through ELL program

Magee's background is extensive, with workplaces ranging from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to Lasell College. (Photo by Rachel Landau '16)

If life were to give lemons to Ms. Joni Magee, she would use them to prepare a wide variety of lemon-based desserts, such as lemon jello, lemon squares, and lemon meringues. This is but one manifestation of the optimism and meticulousness possessed by Magee, a new member of the Wellesley-wide English language learning department.

Magee has an eventful year ahead of her: She is an adjunct professor lecturing at Lasell College, an in-district trainer helping to implement the Rethinking Equity and Teaching for English Language Learners (RETELL), and an educator ready to change lives in her English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom. Magee also intends to master Wellesley’s convoluted color block schedule.

Although Magee is new to the Wellesley Public Schools, she’s quite familiar with systems of education. She fondly remembers her own schooling at a myriad of institutions, as well as her daughter’s positive experiences at Franklin High School.

“There are a lot of dedicated educators, as well as parents who really care about their students’ education and are willing to participate in the educational process,” said Magee.

She most recently spent two years working for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on topics and policies regarding ELL programming. While working in committees was surely meaningful, returning to a classroom setting will provide an entirely different lens to see how state policies and district components impact the process of education. Her colleague, Ms. Jenna Stacy, also anticipates the benefit of this.

“I am thrilled to be working with someone who has such knowledge of governmental procedures and educational law,” she said.

Magee began to teach ELL as a result of her own bilingual upbringing, as well as students whom she’s hosted from countries such as Colombia, Vietnam, South Korea, and Germany.

“I’ve always been exposed to a variety of different culturally and linguistically diverse people,” said Magee.

Magee grinned as she reflected on her past ESL students, particularly one in Milford who had immigrated from Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. As the student continued to adjust despite an ongoing battle with post traumatic stress disorder, Magee and her colleagues reached out by helping her find music lessons and guidance from a therapist. Magee remembers buying the her a Barbie doll, since all former dolls were destroyed in the life-altering earthquake.

Recently, Magee interacted with her former student at a Milford high school theatrical performance and is now aiding her in the college application process.  Magee hopes to make similarly close relationships with students in the Wellesley Public Schools.

In addition, to further her ongoing study of international culture, she hopes to spend upcoming summers traveling abroad to faraway places like Bali and Thailand, which will also give her the opportunity to practice her photography.

In consideration of the year ahead, Magee is already brainstorming activities for her students and ways to make the most of what the high school has to offer.

“It’s only been a few days, but all the students here are very nice, and I’m excited to make more connections and learn more of their stories,” said Magee.

(Christie Yu ’18, Arts Editor and Rachel Landau ’16, Photo Editor)

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