Shift Perceptions. Shape Communities. Sharpen Minds.
In 2014, five educators came together with a common goal: to build an organization that would be more responsive to the needs of English language learners (ELLs), while creating opportunities to work with other like-minded individuals. As current and former ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teachers, we believe strongly in the promise and fortitude of this diverse group of young people. We also know there is much more we can do to minimize the barriers that many of our students face while developing their skills and talents. With our shared passion and combination of more than 75 years in the field of education for ELL students, we knew that if we worked together, we could make a greater impact. This is how the Chesapeake Language Project was founded.
Suzan Eichhorn grew up in Gary, Indiana. From a young age, Suzan expressed an interest in learning about the world and cultures different than her own. As a young adult, Suzan spent time in Europe and Asia with the Foreign Service.
Suzan graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in education from Indiana University. Shortly after that, Suzan began her overseas career where she taught English as a Foreign Language. Over the years, she taught in Trinidad and Tobago, Korea, Japan and Germany. Suzan studied Japanese at the Foreign Service Language School in Rosslyn, Virginia and appreciates the challenges associated with learning a second language as an adult. In 1993, Suzan returned to the United States where she taught English and culture to Japanese business executives. In 2001, Suzan changed paths and pursued her passion of teaching languages in the public school system starting in Baltimore County. Over the last 16 years Suzan has dedicated her life to improving the educational outcomes of immigrant students in secondary schools in Anne Arundel County.
In the mid-90s Suzan opened her own language institute called Language Through Culture where she taught English to the spouses of diplomats from all over the world. During this time, Suzan worked with hundreds of women to support their cultural and linguistic experience in the United States.
Suzan has presented on second language acquisition at the national TESOL conference and has conducted numerous professional development workshops for school and district teachers and staff.
Suzan’s desire to improve the lives of her students during secondary school and beyond motivated her to work with like-minded colleagues to develop the framework of the Chesapeake Language Project.
Tema Encarnacion, M.A.
Tema Encarnacion works as an multilingual educator at Annapolis High School in Anne Arundel County. Prior to that she supported the ESOL program as the ESOL Specialist in Baltimore County Public Schools. Tema has worked with immigrant students and families in various capacities.
After graduating from The George Washington University in Washington, DC, where she studied International Affairs and Spanish, Tema served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. She served her community in economic development, where she spearheaded projects such as micro-enterprise workshops, community sanitation projects and demonstration organic gardens.
Upon returning from overseas, Tema completed her Masters Degree in TESOL at the Notre Dame of Maryland University and has been working with immigrant students and families for over twenty years.
Tema’s recent professional accomplishments include presenting at national and regional conferences on integrating technology and environmental literacy into English language learning through Project Based Learning. Tema has been honored as a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow by National Geographic Education for her commitment to geographic literacy through environmental advocacy. She was named as a Digital Innovator by PBS Learning Media for integrating technology into classroom instruction. Maryland Public Television has also named Tema has an American Graduate Champion. More recently, Tema was selected as a Teacher of the Year Finalist for Anne Arundel County Public Schools.
Tema is passionate about working to improve access to education for immigrant students and families. As a descendent of immigrants and the wife of an immigrant, she knows that contributions of new immigrants and their children is what makes the United States stronger.
Shelley Hartford, M.Ed.
Board Member Emeritus
Shelley Hartford is a multilingual educator committed to strengthening educational opportunities for students of diverse backgrounds. Shelley believes in the capacity of all children to learn, grow and excel academically. She has dedicated her career to improving the capacity of public schools to better serve all students.
Shelley is the Principal of Annapolis Elementary School. Previously, she has served as the Coordinator of the English Language Acquisition Office for Anne Arundel County Public Schools, as a high school Assistant Principal, ESOL Department Chair, ESOL Teacher, and AP French Teacher in Anne Arundel County, Prince George’s County and the District of Columbia.
Through the Chesapeake Language Project, Shelley has found a venue to support immigrant students and English learners on their path toward college.
Prior to becoming an educator, Shelley worked in Washington, D.C. where she specialized in research and policy regarding English Learners for the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Shelley began her professional career at the Bretton Woods Committee, where she supported projects related to international development. Shelley has a certificate in administrative leadership from McDaniel College, an M.Ed. in TESOL from the University of Maryland, College Park and B.A. in French from the University of Florida.
Shelley studied and worked abroad in Avignon, France, where she developed a passion for intercultural communication and bilingualism. At home in Maryland, Shelley found an opportunity to use her French skills to support immigrant students of Haitian and West African origins. Believing in the power of language to create community, Shelley has also become fluent in Spanish in order to better connect with Latino students. Her aspiration is to develop and lead the first public dual language school in Anne Arundel County.
Kiran Sandhu, M.A.
Kiran was born and raised in Charleston, West Virginia. The daughter of Indian immigrant parents, Kiran developed a love for travel and appreciation for diverse cultures as a young child, travelling to India, Canada, England, and wherever else the family diaspora landed. In 2002, Kiran married her husband, Jason Potter. The couple moved to Baltimore while Jason was attending law school. Together they decided to make Maryland home. They now have two children who attend Baltimore County Public Schools.
A 1995 graduate of The Ohio State University, Kiran traveled to Prague, Czech Republic immediately after completing her Bachelor’s degree, where she received her TOEFL (Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) certification, and taught English to Ukrainian air traffic controllers. Kiran then traveled to Madrid, Spain, where she taught English as a foreign language to students of many ages, for approximately two years. Kiran returned to the United States in 1997, where she received her Master’s of Arts in TESOL at the American University in Washington, DC. While attending AU, Kiran also taught ESOL to adult language learners at the Arlington Education and Employment Program (REEP). After receiving her MA TESOL, Kiran worked at West Potomac High School in Fairfax County, VA as an ESOL teacher for two years. In 2002, Kiran began teaching ESOL at Old Mill Middle and High Schools, helping build one of the then, three high school ESOL centers in Anne Arundel County. In 2011, Kiran began working with Baltimore City Schools as an ESOL teacher, developing the expanding ESOL program at Benjamin Franklin High School. She is currently working with Baltimore City Schools as an ESOL Educational Associate, providing guidance and support to high school ESOL sites throughout City Schools.
Kiran’s professional accomplishments include presenting at TESOL’s international conventions in San Antonio, Texas and Seattle, WA. She was selected to participate in Baltimore City Schools’ Star Teacher consortiums in 2013 and 2014, providing STEM teachers with professional development opportunities to better reach English learners. Currently, Kiran is serving a three year term on the Maryland State Advisory Council for English Learners.
In her work with English learners, Kiran has been moved by their strength and resilience, and by richness their language and culture adds to their school communities. Despite all they bring, Kiran has noticed that ELs face a myriad of challenges accessing pathways toward educational and career goals. She helped found The Chesapeake Language Project to provide high school English learners with better access to educational and career opportunities, so that these students are able realize their potential and strengthen our communities.
Erin Sullivan, PhD
Erin Sullivan was born in New York, but relocated to Reisterstown as a child where she was raised in a home with her mother, father, five siblings, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Erin’s mother encouraged all of her children to get involved in community service starting at a very young age. Erin was also influenced by her close relationships with her grandmother and great-grandmother who immigrated from Germany in the 1920s. Erin currently lives in Hampden, with her husband, Ozden, a Turkish immigrant, whom she met at the College of Notre Dame while she was completing her graduate degree and he was studying English.
Erin was driven to pursue a career in teaching English after spending time volunteering with recently-arrived refugees in Baltimore Upon receiving a M.A. in TESOL at the College of Notre Dame, she began her career in public education at Glen Burnie High School. She spent 8 years there as the ESOL lead teacher and 1 year as the AVID Site Coordinator working to support first generation students’ goal of attending college. Erin also worked as an ESOL Educational Associate in Baltimore City where she mentored ESOL teachers across the city. Currently, Erin is the Coordinator of ESOL for Baltimore County Public Schools, overseeing the third largest ESOL program in the state.
Erin has presented at numerous state and national conferences on topics related to English learners including linguistically responsive teaching, project-based learning, and supporting refugee and immigrant students. In 2007, Erin received a professional development award by MD TESOL that funded equipment for her students to use to produce a documentary on the newcomer experience, which was the presented to content teachers, English learners and their families. She was selected as a Fulbright scholar in which she participated in a teacher exchange to Morocco where she taught in a rural mountain village. She was also recognized as Anne Arundel County’s Teacher of the Year in 2010. Erin was awarded her PhD in Instructional Leadership for a Changing Population from Notre Dame University of Maryland in 2016.
After working in the field of ESOL for almost a decade, Erin was motivated to develop an organization which would support the unique gifts and needs of English learners. As a teacher, Erin was discouraged whenever systemic barriers resulted in the denial of access to higher education to students who were academically successful and self-driven. The Chesapeake Language Project was founded to overcome these barriers by first supporting English learners’ high school experience and by continuing to support them through each step of the college process.
Our Board includes well-educated and engaged community members who are immigrants, entrepreneurs, social workers, civil servants, and former ELL students or parents. Like the educators who first came together to create the Chesapeake Language Project, our Board hopes to empower the immigrant community and cultivate the resources they have to offer.
Board of Directors
Yavuz Goncu, President
Berke Attila, Vice President
If you would like to share in our mission, please consider making a donation to the Chesapeake Language Project. We appreciate your interest and hope you will choose to be part of our journey.