Yorkville teacher Kavita Mahendra empowers bilingual students – Shaw Local

Yorkville School District 115 teacher Kavita Mahendra empowers young students learning English.

Mahendra teaches English at Grande Reserve Elementary School, where she works with children of all levels.

“I love my students. I can’t imagine doing anything else in my life,” Mahendra said.

For most students at Mahendra, Spanish is the language spoken at home, and some find it difficult to fit in with their classmates.

Mahendra, who speaks three languages, begins by making her students see their bilingual status as an advantage.

“You speak two languages; it’s a gift. You should be proud, not embarrassed,” Mahendra tells her students.

Yet Mahendra is well aware that her students face unique challenges.

“The challenge my students face is being accepted for who they are,” Mahendra said. “I want my students to talk with others and be leaders in the classroom.”

Kavita Mahendra experienced the classic achievement of coming to America.

She was already a successful teacher in her native India when her husband, Dinesh, an architect, received a green card to come to the United States.

“The opportunity just fell in our lap,” Mahendra said.

The couple came to this country in 2004, bringing their two young children.

Mahendra brought with her a native fluency in English, Hindi and Telugu, a language spoken in several Indian states.

She also came with outstanding college credentials, solid teaching experience, and a strong work ethic.

Mahendra earned a master’s degree in English literature from Osmania University, Hyderabad in 1994, after earning a bachelor’s degree in commerce from the same school. She also had a degree in food production and catering from a hotel management institute.

In Hyderabad, a metropolis of more than 10 million people, Mahendra taught high school English, social studies and economics, while preparing students for their board exams.

“The experience helped me realize that I could start anywhere and teach,” Mahendra said.

While Telugu is the local state language and Hindi is spoken throughout the country, it is English that serves as the lingua franca in India.

“English is the medium of interaction for everything in India,” Mahendra said.

After arriving in this country and settling in Carol Stream, Mahendra’s college degrees in business and management came in handy.

She soon landed a job as a retail store sales manager in Bloomingdale’s, working there for several years.

Mahendra also volunteered at the local public library and started giving English lessons to students. The lure of a teaching career was calling her, but Mahendra knew she needed an education degree to get there.

This led to Northern Illinois University, where Mahendra earned her master’s degree in 2020.

“I realized everything I knew about the teaching that I had to unlearn,” Mahendra said. “I started seeing what the teachers were doing in the classroom.”

Mahendra currently has over 30 students under her wing. Young people from kindergarten to grade 6 come to Mahendra from their regular classrooms for intensive and personalized instruction.

Kavita Mahendra, a learning English teacher, offers encouragement to a student at Grande Reserve Elementary School in Yorkville.  (Mark Foster -- mfoster@shawmedia.com)

“Each student comes with their own story, and that’s where I draw inspiration from,” Mahendra said.

There are only a handful of desks in Mahendra’s small classroom.

On a recent morning, the teacher walked back and forth between just two students as they wrote in their notebooks, offering encouragement while challenging them to do better.

For a visitor, a conversation with one of Mahendra’s students feels no different from talking with any other 6 or 7 year old. However, it is reading and writing that pose the big challenge.

“Watching text is difficult for them,” Mahendra said.

Mahendra uses Scholastic Magazine, a publication familiar to generations of students, to help build her students’ vocabulary.

The teacher’s classroom is filled with displays promoting strategies for students to benefit from their bilingualism.

One tells students to “change your words, change your mindset.”

Instead of saying, “Other children don’t understand me,” the poster advises Mahendra students to turn the situation into a positive: “I have an accent because I speak more than one language.”

Mahendra works with her students’ regular teachers, helping to facilitate the lessons. Communication with parents is essential.

“I work to connect families with limited English skills to the school through phone calls or one-on-one meetings to explain the curriculum, school procedures, medical requirements, and other information. relevant,” Mahendra said. Part of the job is just to support students who are working at a slower pace than their peers, she said.

After completing her master’s degree at NIU and teaching students, Mahendra began teaching at Grande Reserve in 2020.

“I love it here,” Mahendra said. “If I’m not in a classroom, I feel like something is missing.”


Kavita Mahendra, English language learning teacher at Grande Reserve Elementary School in Yorkville.

Q: Can you name a book that has had an influence on your teaching?

A: “Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain,” by Zaretta Hammond. The subtitle of the book is “Promoting authentic engagement and rigor among culturally and linguistically diverse students”.

“It was a challenge for me to learn what I had to do to teach. I am inspired by my children. »

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