LeighAnn Matthews has delivered quite an impression with her role in educating English as a Second Language (ESL) during her career in the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District.
But because of her expertise in the plain old English language, Ms. Matthews has risen rapidly through the ranks in the school district.
That accession has resulted in a new and vital role for Ms. Matthews for this coming 2023-2024 school year when she will serve as the Supervisor of ESL and World Languages for Grades K-12 in the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District.
Ms. Matthews was promoted from her task as the ESL Instructional Coach for K-12 to her new position at a Board of Education meeting on May 23 this year. She replaced Laura De Nicola as the Supervisor of ESL and World Languages for Grades K-12.
This crucial position is quite a step for the personable Ms. Matthews, who began in the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District in 2019
She revealed how she will prepare for the new challenge—and what boosted her progression during her career.
“Some may say that I am asking a lot of questions, but I think that’s how any good leader learns—you ask, but more importantly, you listen and observe,” Ms. Matthews proudly stated. ”Surround yourself with people who are experts in other areas and have different perspectives and work together.”
“And I am very lucky to be able to do that here in Bridgewater-Raritan.”
A resident of Chesterfield in Burlington County and a high school graduate of the Moorestown Friends School, Ms. Matthews earned her bachelor’s in Elementary Education with a concentration in Early Childhood Education from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. She then received a master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from The College of New Jersey.
She previously taught in the East Brunswick Public Schools and the Highland Park Public Schools as an ESL Teacher for Grades K-5.
She also spent eight summers teaching ESL at Rider University to international students who were part of their Study Tours program. The students ranged in ages 11 to 21.She also served as a part-time lecturer for the past three years at Rutgers University in the Learning and Teaching Department at the Graduate School of Education.
The tireless Ms. Matthews is fully engaged beyond the classroom, too.
“I do a lot of work outside of Bridgewater-Raritan that has helped me grow and learn a lot in the field,” Ms. Matthews reported.
Here is a look at what she is actively involved in.
The president elect of NJTESOL/NJBE (New Jersey Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages/New Jersey Bilingual Educators is an association of educators and administrators dedicated to the instruction of English language learners at all levels of public and private education ). She previously served on the executive board as the liaison and bilingual/ESL early childhood special interest group representative.
She authored an article in 2021 for a website called Colorin Colorado, a bilingual website for educators and families of multilingual learners https://www.colorincolorado.org/article/our-new-normal-how-ell-educators-are-advocating-our-students-and-our-profession-during-covid
She serves on the New Jersey Department of Education Bilingual Advisory Committee. “This allows me to not only stay up to date with state level initiatives and network, but also provide input and advocate at the state level,” she said. She has provided professional development across the state on various topics that support teachers and administrators who work with multilingual learners. “ I have presented at the NJEA convention, for NJPSA (New Jersey Principals and Supervisors association), NJASCD (New Jersey Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development), NJDOE Virtual Professional Learning, at the NJDOE Equity in Action conference, as well as the NJTESOL/NJBE Spring Conference and county chapter meetings for the last eight years,” Ms. Matthews said.
She was recently one of 11 educators selected to join the NJASCD Emerging Leader Class of 2023. “NJASCD offers this prestigious recognition and acknowledgement of the talented educators throughout New Jersey as a way to elevate and amplify their work through the NJASCD Emerging Leader Program. NJASCD’s EL program is an opportunity for educators to join a community that is passionate about teaching, learning and leading and who are dedicated to the whole child. The community is a select group of rising leaders in education who participate in a two-year program where they will have the opportunity to elevate their work within the field and find opportunities to lead, no matter the role in education they serve,” Ms. Matthews explained.
Ms. Matthews jumped at the chance to become a leader in her new position.
“I loved my time as an ESL coach and I learned a lot, too. That role gave me the opportunity to meet and connect with people across the district in a variety of positions and share my passion with them,” she explained. “But I wanted the opportunity to have a larger impact on the district culture and community. A large part of leadership or supervision is wanting others to succeed and helping them get there. That’s really important to me.”
She made the leap after she received her certificate in Supervisor and Principal from NJEXCEL, which is the New Jersey EXpedited Certification for Educational Leadership program. It is a state-approved innovative, non-traditional program leading to certification for Supervisor, Principal, Director of School Counseling services, Teacher-Leader and School Administrator.
Karen Jones, who is the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, has experience with the energetic Ms. Matthews.
“I have had the pleasure of working with Ms. Matthews for the past few years as our district ESL coach,” Ms. Jones said. “ LeighAnn is a transformative leader, consistently working to create opportunities for culturally and linguistically diverse students and promoting equity for all students.”
Ms. Jones brims with confidence with what the future holds for the ESL and World Languages K-12 department that is in the stages of expanding throughout the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District.
“I am excited for LeighAnn to support our programs and multilingual students as the district supervisor, especially as we will now be offering services in all of our buildings.” Ms. Jones claimed.
“I know that she will take our programs to the next level.”
Ms. Matthews will lean on her gift for communication and her experience in her new office—she is now stationed at Bridgewater-Raritan High School after being headquartered at the Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School.
“I am definitely planning to bring my coaching lens into the supervisor role and leveraging the relationships that I have built already with the staff.”