Founding Director, Meran Rogers “One to Watch in Education!”

Sean Bednarz | General

Founding Director, Meran Rogers

Written by Jay Miller of Crain’s Cleveland Business


Language — make that languages — have always been at the center of Meran Rogers’ life. And not always in a positive way.
So she’s doing something about that for the next generation of students. She’s working to create Cleveland’s first language immersion school.


The daughter of newly arrived immigrants who met in Chicago, her mother from Poland and her father from Taiwan, Rogers wrestled with the confusion of discordant voices growing up. Eventually her parents settled on English as the household language but the delay slowed Rogers’ progress in school. “I didn’t learn how to read until late in the first grade,” she said. “It wasn’t until we moved to Lakewood at the end of first grade that I was put in an ESL (English as a Second Language) class.”


As an adult Rogers realized that English was necessary for school and to help her family. Yet not learning a second or third language was a mistake. She tried to catch up, taking classes in Mandarin as an undergraduate at Case Western Reserve University, where she graduated in 2005. She admits, picking up a language as an adult has been hard and not as successful as she would have liked.


“The older you get you reflect on what could have been.”

“When I came to realize I only spoke English when I could have learned Chinese and Polish, it was frustrating,” she said. “To be monolingual is a disappointment.” Then, in 2006 and 2007, she spent a year as a language immersion teacher in Taipei, Taiwan. She taught Taiwanese third-graders in English. “I couldn’t get over how fluent my students were in English and Chinese and Taiwanese,” she said. “I started to think, “Why don’t we have that here?” It was a ridiculous thought at the time.”


But no longer.

The Global Ambassadors Language Academy, or GALA, is chartered and partly funded by the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. It will offer language immersion in Spanish and Mandarin. GALA would be the first Mandarin immersion school in the state. The plan is to open the school in fall 2015. The school would immerse English-speaking students into Spanish or Mandarin by teaching nearly everything — art, science and math. The idea is that students fluent in two languages will have an advantage in the global job market.


Rogers did not set out to be an educator so she’s had to catch up educationally to make her dream happen. She earned a master’s degree in nonprofit management from CWRU in 2009. In addition, she is working on an early childhood education certificate from Cuyahoga Community College. “She’s one of those individuals you hear about, through their dedication, something is happening,” said Elizabeth Hijar. Elizabeth is the school’s board chair and director of engagement at the Centers for Families and Children. “She has this amazing personal background that’s “Only in America”.”


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Freshwater Cleveland Article About GALA

Sean Bednarz | General

Freshwater Cleveland Article About GALA

Written by Erin O’Brien of Freshwater Cleveland


Educational opportunities for Cleveland grade-schoolers could soon expand with the addition of a new foreign language immersion school. Last February, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District gave the GALA the thumbs up on a new charter school.


“This is going to be the first foreign language immersion school in the region,” notes GALA’s founder Meran Rogers, adding that it will also be the first Mandarin immersion school in the state.


“Outside of our country, attending a school where you’re immersed in another language is typical,” says Rogers. She should know. She taught at an immersion school in Taiwan for a year and saw the benefits it brought to children there. The experience made Rogers wonder, why don’t we have this here? And GALA was born.


The new charter school expects to open for the 2015/2016 school year offering Spanish and Mandarin programs, although Rogers hopes to expand in the coming years, particularly with Portuguese and Arabic programs. Upcoming milestones for the school include getting a preliminary agreement filed with the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) next March, and a formal contract between CMSD and GALA filed with ODE next May. The group is optimistic that these procedures will go smoothly as GALA plans to begin hiring staff in February and start enrolling students in March. They are currently accepting intent to enroll forms for their inaugural year.


Enrollment is free for all Ohio residents.

GALA will receive the standard state and federal per-pupil allocations. Private donors have included the Albert B and Audrey G. Ratner Family Foundation, RPM International Inc. and Margaret Wong & Associates. Rogers is also hopeful that GALA’s application of a $653,000 federal three-year grant will be approved in the coming days.


GALA will announce the school’s location in December, after completing a series of community information meetings (tonight, Oct. 4, Oct. 8 and Oct. 9, RSVP required). Information gleaned from those gatherings and the intent to enroll forms, such as where students live, will determine the school’s location. GALA is considering three potential spots, although Rogers will not disclose details except that all three are in Cleveland proper with one on the west side of town, one on the east side and one in the middle.


In addition to her international teaching experience, Rogers has another more personal reason for starting the venture.

“I grew up in Cleveland and both of my parents were immigrants. I grew up speaking a blend of four languages: Polish, Taiwanese, Chinese and English,” she says, adding that the confusion over language caused the Cleveland Public Schools to label her as a special education student instead of one with English as a second language. When she transferred to Lakewood Public Schools in second grade, the mistake was corrected. Nonetheless, Rogers still carries negative feelings over the experience and disappointment that her diversity wasn’t valued and nurtured.


“I grew up feeling that my culture and my languages were a burden—something that needed to be done away with—to assimilate,” she says. “If I offer students in similar situations a program that embraces their culture and diversity—or other cultures and diversity—I think that’s good for our community.”


Rogers stresses that GALA is not targeting Mandarin or Spanish speaking students. “It’s actually just the opposite,” she says. “Our model is to target English speaking students.”


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GALA Community Information Meetings

Sean Bednarz | General

Community Information Meetings

Posted below are various dates, times as well as locations of our Global Ambassadors Language Academy Community Information Meetings of late 2014.

Wednesday, September 24 at 5:30pm, PASSED, AsiaTown / St.Clair-Superior

Tuesday, September 30 at 5:30pm, PASSED, Downtown / Campus District

Thursday, October 2 at 5:30pm, PASSED, Cleveland Heights / Buckeye / Shaker

Wednesday, October 8 at 5:30pm, PASSED, Ohio City

Thursday, October 9 at 5:30pm, PASSED, Kamms Corners / West Park

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