Inside ECS – Linda Stofko, West Side

“We are all in.” If there is one message Linda hopes to leave with people, it’s this one. As the English Language District Coach at Elkhart Community Schools, Linda’s mission is to provide excellent service to students and families, and help our families know they are welcome in our schools.

“Elkhart is providing excellent services to our EL families. The work we do is collaborative throughout all buildings,” said Linda. “We know what is good for our EL students and families, is good for all students and our community. Our goal is to value every student, and to make sure every student knows they are valued. Once they know they are valued, that’s when learning can begin. A great credit goes to our community and parent outreach coordinators – Camelia and Luis, who are helping spread the message to our families, and to our EL director – Beth Williams, who encourages us to take risks, to do what’s best for students, and to explore.”

Linda loves learning, and always knew she wanted to work with other learners to spread the love of education. She’s currently working on her second bachelor’s degree (this one in Spanish) at IUSB.

“My most memorable teaching experience was with a girl named Java, who was Arabic. Being a new teacher, I didn’t realize that she couldn’t understand what I was teaching. She was just sitting up front, not understanding. Half-way through, I realized. It was a true light bulb moment to me that every student has different needs and learns differently.”

Linda’s greatest passion is culture and language. She loves that every culture expresses things differently with different words, different depths of words. “When other languages speak about love, how we say “I love something – in English – has a different meaning for other languages. Other languages are reflexive, so when they express it, it means more – it means the person saying it has a deep passion for what they love. The depth of meaning is different than English, it’s not a word-for-word translation.”

Growing up, her first experience with foreign language came from her family, who is from Czechoslovakia. Her grandparents, as well as her parents, spoke Slovak.

“When I was in high school, I took French. I loved it and did very well. My school did not want me to take French because I was only getting a C in language arts.” This drive for following your passion is something that makes her excited to be part of Elkhart Community Schools, as students are encouraged to find and pursue their passions. It was a Linguistics course at IU-Fort Wayne that sealed her fate in pursuing it as a career.

Linda is a recent recipient of a Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellowship Grant, which will provide her with the ability to study abroad for six weeks this summer and bring what she’s learned back to Elkhart through a “New to English” course. Her summer travels will take her to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, staying with a local family and learning from the Aiola Quinto Spanish School. The outcome of her study will be a practical manual for ENL teachers to help them communicate with and teach students who are new to English.

Outside of work, Linda is a self-proclaimed nutrition and fitness nut, who loves yoga, running, and lifting. She’s currently reading Darwin’s Backyard to help her prepare for her trip, as well as Presence: by X, a book about mindfulness. “I always try to read three books. CS Lewis once said that there were stacks of books all around his bed, and I idolize that. I have stacks of books in my family room. I always tell students that reading changes your life. Every book teaches you something.”