Arlington Heights teacher’s family experience shaped passion for language learners

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Beth Hornberg is fluent in Spanish, which puts her at ease in her classroom at Greenbrier Elementary School in Arlington Heights, where she teaches up to 40 students who collectively speak 19 different languages.

They include Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Turkish, and Ukrainian, as well as different dialects from China and India.

Multilingual teacher Beth Hornberg works with her students at Greenbrier Elementary School in Arlington Heights. Her class has up to 40 students who speak 19 different languages.
– Brian Hill | Staff photographer

Hornberg enjoys the diversity it brings – her own father arrived in this country as a teenager from Buenos Aires – and embraces her role as a teacher for multilingual learners in Elementary District 25 of Arlington Heights.

“The most important element is not only to teach them English, but also the socio-emotional aspect,” she says. “Unlike most teachers, I have my students for several years. I often have siblings. We are a family and I work to make them feel safe, secure – and not just for them. students, but for their whole family. “

Hornberg is working to develop what she describes as the Four Greatest Ways to Learn English: Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing, and often in that order.

She meets students during 30-minute drop-in sessions, individually or in small groups, where they work on language acquisition as well as on the academic content of their grade level.

For newcomer students, Hornberg may meet them three times a day at first, but this usually decreases as their English proficiency improves in higher grades.



Beth Hornberg guides her students through the halls of Greenbrier Elementary School in Arlington Heights.

Beth Hornberg guides her students through the halls of Greenbrier Elementary School in Arlington Heights.
– Brian Hill | Staff photographer

For students who enter with little or no English, Hornberg communicates using lots of pictures, modeling and drawing on basic vocabulary words, such as parts of their bodies or common classroom objects. or at home.

“We read books and we also sing a lot,” Hornberg said. “We love to sing in my class.”

She finds that students usually learn listening skills first and slowly begin to speak, usually with one-word responses before constructing sentences and sentences.

“It’s our hope to get them to speak in the conversation,” Hornberg adds, “but that’s still the hardest part.”

Hornberg brings a lot of experience to his students. She has worked with multilingual learners during the 18 years she has taught, but also has experience as an administrator, as an assistant manager at Round Lake before coming to Greenbrier.



Beth Hornberg said her family's experiences - her father learned English himself after arriving in the United States from Argentina as a teenager - helped her become a multilingual elementary school teacher. Greenbrier in Arlington Heights.

Beth Hornberg said her family’s experiences – her father learned English himself after arriving in the United States from Argentina as a teenager – helped her become a multilingual elementary school teacher. Greenbrier in Arlington Heights.
– Brian Hill | Staff photographer

Previous teaching positions have included schools in Round Lake and Itasca, where Hornberg has always worked with new English speakers.

“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, but I have a passion for language learners, which comes from my own family experience,” she said.

His father came to this country from Argentina at the age of 17. At the time, there was no program to switch students to English. So he learned on his own by listening to the people around him – and the songs on the radio.

“He loved the Mamas and the Papas and the Beatles,” says Hornberg, laughing.

Yet while she identifies strongly with students who are struggling to integrate into their new country, Hornberg encourages them to continue speaking their native language at home.

“Being bilingual or trilingual is a beautiful and positive thing to have in your life,” she said.

Hornberg’s classroom is located across from the Library Media Center in Greenbrier, near the school center. Students pass by each day and see the lively cultural celebrations displayed in the room.

But there is more going on in the room than it looks.

“My biggest goal is to make my classroom a safe place where students can make mistakes as they learn and grow,” she said.


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