Carol Salva is an ESL teacher, a consultant, and the co-author of Boosting Achievement, a text for teachers who serve English Language Learners. Her book, co-authored by Anna Matis, was written to support teachers who serve children with limited English and/or formal education, but it is being received as both positive and practical for teachers who serve any ESL students. Carol is an advocate for her students and for using strategies to help English language learners develop their skills in an engaging and meaningful way. I have the privilege of being on the ONedmentors team with her.

We met through Derek Rhodenizer. He interviewed Carol for Beyond the Staffroom where I first heard her optimistic outlook. She had listened to one of his podcasts with me and learned about my Building Outside the Blocks approach. Derek invited each of us onto the ONedmentors team, so I have to thank him for bringing her into my life and helping me learn other possibilities for my projects.

Carol has been a champion of my BOB approach and, in particular, values the change in the lens in terms of time. She sees that having students choose presentation dates in view of their personal calendar can de-constrain and differentiate learning, and help students develop agency. She also taught me that certain BOBs like the What’s in a Name projects can be a great invitation for newcomers to share their stories, heritage and first language with their classes as they become a community of learners. Carol brings humour, insight and honestly to the important conversations we are having about the art and science of teaching and so much else.

When Carol began introducing her nostalgic song, I got a little carried away. When I saw it among her playlist. I was hoping that she selected it because of the movie soundtrack it’s on. The song is great on its own, but it has come to be particularly symbolic to our generation and the subsequent ones who have found the movie as pivotal and essential as we did when we first saw it in 1985. The allusion to it in Pitch Perfect has even introduced this John Hughes classic to a new generation.

While her high school experience may have been a bit longer and more challenging than many, Carol is a woman who learned how to persevere and fill in the gaps. As she shared her high school experience, she explained why the movie where this song is found resonated with her beyond the crushes and the coveted cool groups that are universal in the high school experience. Carol can deeply relate to the struggles and setbacks of having to make up achievement gaps and develop a growth mindset. She has many personal connections to what that means and makes sure that she doesn’t forget about how far she had to come as she helps others achieve. Here’s Simple Minds with Don’t You Forget About Me (A version with Breakfast Club movie clips).

Carol’s identity song came from one that her daughter sang in her choir. When Carol saw the lyrics, she thought that it was a good text to use with her students to track the print and develop sight words, which she uses to ramp up their decoding skills. She discusses the message of the song, asserting that you have to be a bit of a dreamer and believe in what’s possible in order to achieve things. “You can be better than you are, you could be swinging on a star,” here is Bing Crosby crooning Swinging on a Star:

After we played this Grammy award-winning tune for Best Original Song in 1944, Carol talked a bit about her father. Sadly, her father passed away last year, but his important message endures. Carol shared that her dad was a great man and always believed and said: Life is what you make of it. This song makes her think of that as she refers to the lyrics saying that it’s your choice to be better than you are. Carol often sounds like she is swinging on a star because she is inspired by her students and by the many teachers that she meets all over the country through her consulting experiences and in promoting her new book. It’s her positivity and belief in others that surely propels them to achieve.

Carol’s “energizer” song is one that she will blast out in the car on her drives between cities in Texas where she lives and does a lot of her consulting. I can just picture her belting it out in her car and making hand gestures freely, regardless of a commuters glance. She refers to the lyrics of the song because teaching, for her, is about harbouring her students in a shelter and lifting others up.  Filling others with hope and possibility fuels her passion and drives her to help her students feel safe in her care. “No matter what’s going on in the media or in the world or anything negative, education will always be the answer.” She refers to peaceful displays of change and modelling the person you want to be in the world. “We can be what we want to see. We can be that change in here.” She creates a place for students to feel protected in her classroom, knowing they have various experiences that may not include that feeling. Here is Capital Cities singing Safe and Sound.

Carol’s Personal Playlist Podcast reflects her proven practice of boosting achievement for herself, other teachers, and her “kiddos”. One of the comments on Amazon about her book is from Katie Toppel: 

Boosting Achievement is an excellent, and very needed, resource for teachers who work with English Learners who have experienced limited or interrupted schooling. The book is beautifully presented with easily accessible information describing Carol Salva’s experiences teaching SIFE students. The author’s suggestions and ideas are humble and honest based on what she learned firsthand working with her SIFE population and teachers across the globe are reading and loving this book! This is a highly valuable resource!

Carol blogs about her work, posts YouTube videos on her channel, and participates in a variety of platforms that help her share while also being open to new perspectives from other educators that inform her thinking. She wants to encourage people to use reflection to “tweak and adjust” and reach out to their PLN to continue their learning.