After a unanimous election at the National Association for Bilingual Education executive board meeting on July 1, AFT Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus was sworn in as president of NABE, the only national professional organization devoted to representing bilingual/multilingual students and bilingual educational professionals. The election further solidifies a longtime relationship between the AFT and NABE; for years the two groups have worked together to advance the best possible policies and resources for multilingual learners and the educators who serve them.
NABE, which was founded in 1975, has affiliates in 18 states, and its membership includes not only teachers of English language learners but parents, paraprofessionals, administrators, professors, advocates, researchers and policymakers as well. “NABE is highly committed to prepare 21st century multiliterate global citizens who will make contributions in economic, civic, technological and cultural advancement,” NABE writes in its mission statement. “NABE members are the ambassadors who choose to create unity within a diverse and interdependent world.”
As NABE president, DeJesus will work with the executive director, the NABE board and its affiliates to develop recommendations and support policy, programs, research, pedagogy and high-quality professional development that addresses the needs of multilingual learners and the practitioners who serve them. Her deep experience in the field will inform her work: She spent two decades as a K-12 bilingual classroom teacher in New York City, helped establish strong labor-management relationships to improve teaching and learning conditions for multilingual learners there, and has long been a powerful national advocate for multilingual education, visiting dozens of bilingual classrooms across the nation and inspiring hundreds of teachers and students to celebrate multilingualism.
“I am committed to taking bilingual education to the next level and providing the practitioners that serve our nation’s English language learners with the tools and support they need,” DeJesus says.
DeJesus has already served as an NABE vice president and has led the AFT’s initiatives on professional development, multilingual learning and parent engagement. She also leads the AFT’s Latino Issues Task Force, the Asian American and Pacific Islander Task Force and the LGBTQIA+ Task Force. Her AFT connections, which reach across the nation, further strengthen the NABE-AFT partnership as the organizations work together to amplify policy and advocacy efforts.
“As a former ELL myself, I know the power of language and literacy,” says DeJesus, who moved to New York from Puerto Rico as a child. “I believe we must flip the national narrative on bilingualism. ELLs don’t bring deficits to the classroom—they bring superpowers. With proactive leadership, we can lift up bilingualism as a superpower.”