MinneTESOL believes strongly in the importance of advocacy for immigrant and refugee English learners in Minnesota. We acknowledge that the jobs of ESL teachers go beyond the classroom and include many types of advocacy from connecting students to resources to lobbying legislators for policy changes. We have chosen to honor this important advocacy work by creating the Mary Diaz Award for ELL Advocacy beginning in 2017. Mary Diaz was “one of the founders of [Hamline University’s] ESL and bilingual programs. She also worked for the Comprehensive Assistance Center, housed in the Hamline School of Education, from which she provided technical assistance to school districts serving English learners to help them meet Civil Rights Act requirements. Several colleagues said she was better known for her work with refugee and immigrant education than anyone else in Minnesota” [Star Tribune].

2021 Recipient: Natalia Benjamin

Natalia Benjamin
Multilingual Learners and Ethnic Studies Teacher at Century High School (CHS), Rochester Natalia Alvarez Benjamin is an EL teacher, an immigrant and language learner herself, and is this year’s Teacher…

2020 Award Recipient: Sam Ouk

Sam Ouk
As a former leader of MinneTESOL and a continuing “member at large,” Sambath Ouk is a leader on advocacy issues and well respected across the community as one of the most effective…

2019 Recipient: Jill Watson

Jill Watson, PhD, is Assistant Professor of EAL & WL Education at St. Olaf College. She consults with schools and state departments of education on EL & SLIFE instruction, and…

2018 Recipient: Amy Hewett-Olatunde

Dr. Amy Hewett-Olatunde is a former MinneTESOL President and is the 2015-16 Minnesota Teacher of the Year. Throughout her career, Amy has worked tirelessly for English language learners in Minnesota.…