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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