Language acquisition, literacy skills for English learners are the focus of Project GLAD® Spring Institute

Educators from across the region gathered in Costa Mesa last month to share strategies for improving language acquisition and literacy skills for English learners at the Orange County Department of Education Project GLAD® Spring Institute.

Project GLAD® stands for Guided Language Acquisition Design, and OCDE runs its official National Training Center. The award-winning instructional model utilizes a scaffolded approach to language acquisition, using visual aids, cooperative learning and inquiry-based instruction to help students learn key academic vocabulary and concepts, as well as build comprehension, fluency and critical thinking skills.

OCDE Project GLAD® Spring Institute
Dr. Nicole Chávez welcomes educators from across Orange County to the OCDE Project GLAD® Spring Institute.

Organized by Administrator Dr. Nicole Chávez and her OCDE team, along with partners from Educators Cooperative, the April 26 Spring Institute featured expert roundtables, educator panels and breakout sessions, all aimed at improving outcomes for English learners. Experienced Project GLAD® educators in the La Habra City School District spoke specifically to the importance of committing to the model.

Student voices

The event also included testimonials from students who have benefited from Project GLAD® strategies in their classrooms. Their words highlighted how the program not only improves academic language proficiency but also promotes the respect and honor of each child’s voice, personal life experience, beliefs and culture.

“I wasn’t going to come to school today, but then I remembered that my team in my GLAD® class was going to need me, so I decided to come,” one fifth-grader shared. “I didn’t want to let them down, I knew they were counting on me.”

“I love being in my (Project GLAD® class) because I feel safe,” a third-grader said. “It’s really fun too because we get to talk a lot and work in groups. Also my teachers explain everything so I don’t feel left out.”

A collaborative space

The Spring Institute was billed as a collaborative space for PK-12 paraeducators, educators, leaders and instructional coaches to learn and share best practices for applying Project GLAD® strategies in early childhood, elementary and secondary settings — and nearly every Orange County district was represented.

“There has been a strong demand within our communities to create this kind of institute with intentionality, providing a collaborative space for educators, leaders and instructional coaches to learn and share best practices for applying Project GLAD® strategies across all grade levels,” Chávez said. “In the years ahead, we will continue to foster networking and learning opportunities that support universal access for multilingual and dual language learners.”

The event concluded with remarks from Niccole Connally, the Orange Unified School District’s high school teacher of the year, who spoke about how Project GLAD® strategies have helped her build relationships with her students and establish a supportive community within her classroom.

Connally was presented with the 2023 OCDE Project GLAD® Exceptional Educator Award by Dr. Chávez. The La Habra City School District, with nearly three decades of Project GLAD® implementation, was recognized with the program’s Educational Legacy Award.

To learn more about Project GLAD®, visit