3 Problems In Bilingual Education That I Found Out When I Went To NYC For NABE

2 weeks ago, NABE (National Association of Bilingual Educators)  gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. I was a featured speaker along with people like the United States Secretary of Education, Michael Cardona,  and Commissioner Betty A. Rosa, Commissioner of Education & President of the University of the State of New York, along other thought leaders in dual language education.

When I started Papaya, I thought that we were creating a platform to help college students. NABE showed me that I was completely wrong!

While I was at NABE, I talked to educators, principals, administrators, School recruiters, and dual language specialists and others. And I quickly learned that what we had created at Papaya, which is a tutoring platform with high quality tutors who also happen to be Engineering students in Latin America actually helps bilingual education in the United States of America.

I quickly realized that all of my journey on being an immigrant in this country, not understanding my Calculus professor, working 2 jobs to support myself while going to school, being judged as a bad/dumb student because I did not enough time to study, graduating Engineering School, and working in Silicon Valley were instrumental to help students who are in the same situation I was once. 

NABE showed me that just by focusing on STEM college students, I was not going to help bridging the education gap. I learned that Papaya could quickly help students at risk, educators who are over-saturated with overcrowded classrooms, and schools who cannot find bilingual teachers. 

Here are 3 problems I found while attended NABE and on how Papaya can help in every one of them: 

1. Not enough bilingual teachers.

We had a booth at NABE, and I was very surprised to realize that many school districts had booths as well. I naturally wanted to get to know my neighbors, so I went around and asked everyone what they were doing there. They were all hiring teachers! They told me that there are not enough teachers for bilingual students, and that the number of teachers just keeps getting smaller… yikes!

Here is an article on teacher shortage.

The Papaya solution 

We recruit bilingual tutors from Latin America Engineering and Medical Schools to get people who love Science, Math, and Programming. Sometimes, we actually get teachers too! So with this, we can arm teachers in the USA with the resources to be able to help more students. With our platform, data can help teachers and schools be proactive on how to help bilingual students in dual language programs better.

2. Students are not at the right grade level 

We conducted a Survey with some NABE attendees. Surprisingly, 70% of the people who took the survey indicated that a major challenge was, “Students not at the right grade level”.

The Papaya solution 

Although, it breaks our hearts to think how educators might feel when they have this challenge to overcome, it brings me a little relief to say that at Papaya, we can help with that! When we onboard a school, we conduct an evaluation 1-1 with a tutor to have a feel on where the student is at. This evaluation tells us what fundamentals are missing in the student’s education, so we can help bridge the gap with the right personalized and tailored online classes for each student.

3. Overcrowded classrooms

As I was talking to many educators, a big pain point everyone kept mentioning was the size of the classroom. Can you imagine? So there is already a preceding problem, the fact that there are students (children) placed in a classroom that they are not ready for. On top of that, the teacher has a classroom that is overcrowded, so they cannot possibly help all the students. I cannot imagine how teachers might feel. 

The Papaya solution 

Because we have individualized instruction after we conduct evaluations, we are able to work with the teachers to help all of the students. Think of our tutors as little helpers for the teachers to make sure that everyone is on track 🙂

To summarize, I would like to say thank you to NABE for asking me to be a featured speaker. Like I said in my speech, 
“Who would have thought that an immigrant who was once in academic probation, who was told you are not going to be an engineer, who doubted herself of her worth and intelligence would be here in NYC,the city that never sleeps and the capital of the world, to talk about education.”

Had I not gone to the NABE conference, I would have never realized that where we were needed the most is at the start of a child’s education. So I am happy to announce that with this, we are officially opening our doors to educators and schools. We are here for all of your bilingual students who are struggling to understand their native language. We are here for all of your students who need a little reinforcement in Math & Science, and for the ones who want to go get ahead during the summer in our Programming and Coding classes with our amazing online private tutors.

Special thank you to these amazing people for making this happen, 

  1. Tommy Lam who is the Adobe liaison. Because of Adobe, we were able to pay our way to NABE
  2. Margarita Pinkos, the president of NABE. Thank you Margarita for inviting me to speak. I am still in disbelief that I was a featured speaker. Someone pinch me because I am dreaming!
  3. Judith M. Sauri, NABE treasurer. Thank you for allowing me to speak at NABE. I know you vouched for me, and it means a lot to me. Thank you for giving a living testimonial
  4. Dr. Dora Renaud, more than a Doctor, a mentor and a friend. Thank you for coaching me and helping me in this mission.
  5. Ruben Abarca, my business partner and Papaya’s #1 fan. Thank you for everything you do for Papaya. We are honored that you believed in us even though we may seem young 😉



Sandra LaPlante Papayatutor’s CEO


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