School leaders using the EL Education model respect teachers and other staff members as creative agents in their classrooms and as professionals continually seeking to improve their craft. The EL Education model supports leaders to demonstrate a growth mindset and a commitment to continuous professional learning in themselves and all faculty members. 


  • EL Education National Conference - Amana in the Spotlight
  • American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages Conference - Building Bridges with World Languages
  • North Carolina Outward Bound Educator Course - Going Beyond What They Thought Possible
  • Georgia Educational Technology Conference - Innovating with Ed Tech to Solve Real-World Problems


The EL Education National Conference was held in Denver, CO from November 29-December 2. This year's conference was incredibly special for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that two students from Amana's North Fulton campus were selected to be keynote speakers at the opening plenary on the first day of the conference. Meryem and Zarah are both 8th graders who started their educational journey at Amana in Kindergarten 9 years ago. Check out their video:

The opportunity to speak at the conference came about as part of a Media Grant that Amana won last year for Better World Day - a national event that showcases student learning that contributes to a better world. In addition to the speaking opportunity for the students, the grant included the filming and production of a short film about middle school Better World Day projects (which can also be seen in the video above) and a chance to showcase student projects that highlight our Design Thinking approach in the conference makerspace.

Amana had a big presence at the conference - between the two campuses, 13 teachers and leaders were able to attend, in addition to Meryem, Zarah and their parents. This allowed for a lot of deep learning and productive conversations for everyone. Peter Epstein, the ESOL Coordinator, said, "Our trip to the EL Conference provided a special opportunity to experience best practices in other schools, brainstorm ideas with educators from all around the country, learn about new initiatives and projects, and spend time with our own fantastic crew which brings so much determination and enthusiasm to make Amana the best place for our students."

This year's conference was very student focused and student driven, with kids from EL Education schools across the country leading sessions and participating at all levels of the event. Our own students participated on a panel during a session titled Affinity Groups for Building Black Joy, and were encouraged to think about how they might incorporate affinity groups at Amana so students have safe spaces to celebrate their identities.

Ms. Barnett, Director of Integrated Instruction and Ms. Fox, Director of Marketing, Insights, and Communication, presented a working session titled Building Hope: Designing Meaningful Learning Expeditions. Learning Expeditions are long-term, in-depth studies that make standards come alive for students. They involve students in original research, critical thinking, and problem solving, and they build character along with academic skills. The session was attended by almost 90 teachers and leaders who were interested in learning more about how to make learning expeditions more engaging for students while at the same time ensuring that the work students are engaged with is rigorous and standards-based. Participants used the design thinking process to work through challenges that they've encountered in their own expedition planning and to think through solutions to those challenges using the project featured in Meryem and Zarah's keynote as an exemplar.

Executive Director, Ehab Jaleel, was invited to join two other charter school leaders in sharing stories about change, challenge, and choice within their school communities. In reflecting on challenges, Mr. Jaleel said, "Our leadership team had an ah-ha moment this time last year when we realized that among other challenges, our contract with EL Education for teacher training was insufficient given the number of new teachers on our staff. Having achieved credentialed school status in 2018 within the EL network of schools, EL Education’s contract decreased; and while the cost discount was appealing, it was not the level of contract Amana's Crew needed post-pandemic. As a result, our contract was increased this year, which translates to double the support we are getting from EL coaches and more training opportunities for teachers."

Mr. Jaleel also had the opportunity to attend a reception with other credentialed school leaders and the Mayor of Denver, Mike Johnston. Mr. Johnston is a lifelong educator and was the founding principal of Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts (MESA), an EL Education school in Denver. He began his career as a school teacher in the Mississippi delta, and shared stories from his experiences leading an Expeditionary Learning school, and reflected on how we change students and how they change us.

The theme of the conference was ELevate, and it did just that. Amana conference attendees learned about ways to elevate student voice to increase engagement, to be more equitable in their interactions with students and colleagues, and to create structures that support student success. We look forward to learning even more when the conference comes to Atlanta next year!


EL Education schools believe in supporting global citizenship, which means a strong focus on knowledge and appreciation of diverse cultures, languages, and political systems as well as natural systems. They embrace environmental stewardship and social justice to grapple with the world's most complex problems. In the EL Education model, leaders and teachers recognize that they must prepare students for global citizenship in an increasingly complicated and interconnected world and that multilingualism is a key tool and a vital global skill that deepens understanding of other countries and cultures. For that reason, Amana highly values our World Language team and the work they do to prepare students for success in an intercultural society.

On November 15, members of the Arabic Language crew from both campuses were able to attend the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages conference in Boston. Ms. Arslan, Ms. Edilbi and Ms. Abdalla from the North Fulton Campus, and Ms. Benamara from the West Atlanta Campus, all had the opportunity to connect with other world language teachers from around the country and learn along side them for two days.

In her role as a Board member for the Southeast Arabic Teachers Council (SATC), Ms. Abdalla was invited by the Qatar Foundation International to deliver remarks about the valuable contribution that the SATC has made to support Arabic teachers, students and parents throughout the Southeast. "As both a presenter and a conference attendee, this experience holds personal significance for me, offering a platform for learning from peers and contributing to the enhancement of Arabic Language education," she says, "Professionally, it has provided profound insights into innovative teaching approaches that I am excited to implement into our teaching practices at Amana. Implementing these approaches can enhance engagement and proficiency in Arabic, fostering a deeper appreciation for our language and culture among our students."

Ms. Benamara reflected on her time at the conference, saying that it changed the way she thought about completing classwork. "I noticed that the value of pair work and group work is really in the process. The language practice that students get by interacting with one another in a focused way is more valuable than completing an assignment by the end of class, as long as they can finish it for homework." She also says she enjoyed having the opportunity to build relationships and network with other language professionals.

Ms. Arslan attended a session that was titled Heritage Learners: Differentiated Instruction and Alternate Assessments, where they focused on developing effective assessment methods, providing constructive feedback that focuses on language development and cultural competency, and adapting teaching methods to accommodate students with varying language backgrounds and proficiency. She also sat in on sessions that focused on incorporating technology and multimedia elements into classroom instruction, and well as establishing meaningful partnerships with Arabic cultural organizations, and fostering a sense of global citizenship. "In many ways," she says, "we feel ahead of the game because we already implement many of these strategies at Amana."

One aspect of the conference that Ms. Edilbi remarked on was the Exhibit Hall, which was filled with different vendors that promote language apps, travel opportunities, games, and online resources in different languages. "We got to check out the latest innovations in the teaching of foreign languages. We encouraged these vendors to offer their product in Arabic since there are a growing number of Arabic language learners."


As an EL Education school, Amana believes in promoting courage and adventure, and we have a strong focus on creating opportunities for leadership and collaboration as groups of students and teachers face challenges both alone and together. Reflection is a vital component of such adventures, so that each experience is a rich opportunity for learning about oneself, one’s peers, and the world. EL Education has its roots in Outward Bound, which is a non-profit outdoor education organization that aims to foster the personal growth and social skills of participants by using challenging and authentic adventure in the outdoors.

Over the summer, three teachers from Amana's North Fulton Campus attended a 9-day Educator Course with the North Carolina Outward Bound School. Ms. Gardner, the Elementary STEM Teacher, Ms. Reed, one of the Exceptional Education teachers, and Coach Kirsch, Elementary PE teacher, engaged in hiking, rock climbing, rappelling, wilderness camping, and deep reflection with education professionals from other schools.

Ms. Gardner says, "As teachers, it's rare that we get the opportunity to step back into the role of a genuine learner. My Outward Bound experience was exactly that. It was a powerful reminder that learning and being outside of your comfort zone is hard, uncomfortable, and ten other scary emotions. But it is also empowering, transformative, and so, so magical. Throughout the 9 day course, I encountered several challenges and saw aspects of my students in myself as I approached each one. With a deeper understanding of Experiential Learning and renewed empathy for what it's like to be a learner, I've returned and have taken steps to not only become a better teacher, but also a better daughter, sister, and aunt."

Ms. Reed speaks about a letter she wrote to herself during the summer course that she just received in the mail recently." I wrote about the panic that set in on the night we solo camped. I wrote, 'remember when you were putting up your tarp and you nearly panicked? You felt panicked because somewhere inside, you thought someone would show up to help you.' What happened was I showed up for myself. What I came away with from the NCOBS experience was a desire for students to come to the realization that they, too, can challenge themselves beyond what they know. I want them to come to understand the 'why' for themselves rather than seeking the answer from the teacher/authority."


Ms. Gardner, Elementary STEM teacher, also had the opportunity to attend the Georgia Educational Technology Conference in early November, along with Ms. Gutierrez, the STEM teacher at Amana West. GAETC is designed to help educators at all levels increase their understanding of the role of technology in education and provide the opportunity to learn about the latest in educational technology.

"As a STEM teacher, I am always on the lookout for new ways to implement technology in real-world applications," says Ms. Gardner. "This year, we were fortunate to be awarded GAETC's Innovation Grant for just that. The grant will allow us to purchase Pocketlab sensors to support a fifth grade project investigating heat islands in our community. We will also be able to utilize these sensors to explore changes in our school garden and hydroponics systems. I am excited to present our projects at the conference next year!"


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