Teacher Appreciation Week - Sonal Patel
Posted on 05/08/2024

Chattanooga, TN – Sonal Patel, a passionate and dedicated first-year English as a New Language (ENL) teacher at East Lake Elementary, is making a significant impact on the lives of her students every day through connection and community. Her dedication and commitment to teaching comprehension, vocabulary, and critical thinking skills, she helps young students overcome language barriers and embrace English as a new language.

Like many East Lake Elementary students, Patel grew up being exposed to and speaking Gujarati (an Indian language), which fuels her empathy and passion for teaching students with unique language needs. As an ENL teacher, Patel understands the challenges faced by students who are learning English because of her own experience as a child. This life experience is what drove Patel to become an ENL teacher, though her journey to ENL was not immediate. Patel spent her first 12 years in Hamilton County teaching Kindergarten and 1st graders as a K-5 Rise reading specialist and as a literacy coach, but she knew she wanted to do more to support students who shared similar life experiences. Patel uses her background and skills to teach students at East Lake who primarily speak Spanish- even though Patel does not speak Spanish herself. 

Patel encourages her students to become confident English learners. She said,”My students are incredibly hard-working and motivated. English is not their first language, something I think is often forgotten.  That means they are fluent in another language and working hard to learn a complicated language. I am lucky to get to work with my amazing students every day.”

With an innovative and inclusive teaching style, Patel uses imagery, rhyming, sight words, and more to teach students while embracing their language barriers. ENL instruction happens in English using interactive techniques, numerous hands-on activities, multiple pictures, body movements, and gestures to teach English vocabulary. She creates a nurturing and culturally engaging environment where students come together to not only learn English but to thrive and connect to an educator in new and exciting ways. 

Hamilton County Schools is dedicated to supporting its teachers by valuing every employee's unique contributions. Educators like Patel go above and beyond daily to provide for every student and serve every community. We are honored that amazing educators such as Patel choose to work in Hamilton County Schools and support our students. Thank you Ms. Patel for your continued service to our students, your effort is appreciated by our entire community.