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In Memoriam: Ivannia Soto

Ivannia Soto was an exemplary scholar-practitioner. Her scholarly contributions are impressive and include 14 published books, but perhaps even more impressive was her dedication...

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In Memoriam: Ivannia Soto

Dan Alpert pays tribute to a groundbreaking educator, whose determination and insight has improved and will improve outcomes for millions of students

Ivannia Soto

Ivannia Soto was an exemplary scholar-practitioner. Her scholarly contributions are impressive and include 14 published books, but perhaps even more impressive was her dedication to K–12 practitioners and the children they serve. From her early professional experiences as a classroom teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District to her more recent work as a teacher educator at Whittier College, Ivannia worked to advance opportunities and justice for millions of English learners in our nation’s schools.
Ivannia may be best known for her “shadowing multilingual learners” work—a professional learning design that has been enacted in school districts across the nation and is the subject of a best-selling professional book.1 The shadowing protocol was designed to sensitize teachers to the need to provide opportunities for oral language production for multilingual learners. Participants focus on the speaking and listening experiences of a multilingual learner over a portion of a school day. This “day in the life” observation reveals not only that such opportunities are typically quite limited but that the absence of these opportunities creates barriers to achievement and student disengagement. Participants in Ivannia’s shadowing workshops have called the experience “transformative,” yet Ivannia herself has stated that shadowing is strictly an entry point and must be followed up by sustained professional learning. In her words, shadowing is not a panacea—there must be a plan to disrupt silence and engage MLLs after shadowing.2
Ivannia’s commitment to promoting multilingualism and multiliteracies is evident in nearly all of her professional endeavors. She reminded us of the need to affirm the assets of our multilingual students—even during the dark period of “English only” policies in California and other states. She challenged the deficit thinking that reified the “odds of predictable failure” based on a student’s zip code, race/ethnicity, English proficiency level, or labels like SIFE and LTEL in her conviction that these marginalized students, given the right supports, have the capacity to achieve greatness. She believed in the possibility and promise of multilingualism for all Americans by increasing opportunities for dual language education in our schools. After the passage of Proposition 58 in California—a policy sea change that opened the door to dual language instruction and programs—Ivannia recognized the need for highly qualified bilingual teachers across the state. In response, she developed and led the Bilingual Educator Strategic Training project in collaboration with the California Association for Bilingual Education. She also spearheaded an ambitious edited book project—Breaking Down the Monolingual Wall, a guide to exemplary practices and policies for dual language education.
Finally, Ivannia’s belief in the possible extended to her work as a teacher educator and consultant. She loved and respected teachers and recognized the power of education to help us become the best versions of ourselves. We mourn her loss but are confident that her legacy will be long lasting.
[1] Ivannia Soto, Shadowing Multilingual Learners, 2nd ed, Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2001.
[2] Ivannia Soto “Learning from Long Shadows,” Language, August 26, 2001.

Dan Alpert ([email protected]) is a freelance writer and editor. As publisher and program director of Corwin’s equity line, he edited twelve of Ivannia Soto’s books.

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