Alumna Profile: Karen Nemeth
“We have a big language need to fill,” Karen Nemeth, GSE‘80, reveals. Throughout her career, Nemeth’s mission has been to bring “attention to early language development and support teachers so they can support first and second language development.” To advance this goal, Nemeth founded the consulting firm Language Castle to provide resources for teachers of multilingual learners.
“Language is the root of interpersonal communication, relationships, early literacy development, and supporting diversity in our programs,” Nemeth explains.
Understanding the importance and difficulty of creating relationships in spite of language barriers, Nemeth developed an app for teachers: 20 Welcome Words. The app provides teachers the ability to instantly access words and phrases such as “welcome” or “my name is” in a child’s native language.
“When a child comes to the program that very first day, maybe they have never been away from their mom before and they’re left in a room full of people who don’t speak their language, in that first moment the connection a teacher makes to that child can set the stage for their whole school career after that,” shares Nemeth. “Teachers are being asked to learn about 20 keywords that you would need to connect with a little kid that doesn't speak your language so he can feel safe and welcome.”
In addition to her app, Nemeth has recently published an eBook entitled Getting Teachers Ready to Teach Young DLLs. Available on the iTunes store for $.99, Nemeth’s book is an inexpensive tool that “puts quick tips and links at [teachers’] fingertips.”
Nemeth’s consulting firm and career as an author, blogger, presenter, and app developer began following five years of service with the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE). Nemeth’s role as a dual language learner specialist in the Office of Preschool Education exposed her to preschool programs and the communication needs of early learners throughout the state.
In addition to her position with NJDOE, Nemeth’s career was also influenced by her graduate work at Rutgers GSE. Nemeth fondly remembers former faculty member Marjorie Arnold and current dean Richard De Lisi. Arnold, who eventually served as Nemeth’s advisor, sparked her interest in first and second language acquisition, and De Lisi motivated Nemeth to
“explore cognitive development in connection with [her] interest in language acquisition.” Furthermore, the GSE community allowed Nemeth to collaborate with peers who had interests other than language acquisition.
“Rutgers caused me to broaden my understanding of how my interest was going to connect with the broader field of education,” Nemeth reveals. “And I am not done yet!”
Nemeth continues to share Language Castle’s resources and her scholarly insight at conferences across the United States, and she also directly consults with school administrators and teachers to help them to improve their practices.