Bridging the gap

By Learning Forward
August 2019
Vol. 40 No. 4
Inside Prodeo Academy’s St. Paul, Minnesota, campus, students walk quietly across polished wooden floors in their navy-and-white uniforms. The majority of the school’s 77 students are refugees, many of whom have emigrated from Thai refugee camps that shelter Karen and Kayah ethnic minorities from Myanmar. Down the hall, a peek inside Kathleen Boland’s mixed K-1 classroom reveals a learning environment that feels reassuringly recognizable, yet quietly revolutionary. As she animatedly taps out phonics exercises around a table with five students, at a nearby table a handful of children quietly work on phonics worksheets. On the bright carpet, another cluster of students complete self-paced activities. Flexible seating in the form of colorful bucket chairs allow students choice and variety in their learning environment. In an inviting

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Sengsouvanh (Sukey) Leshnick, Jackie Statum Allen, and Daniela Berman

Sengsouvanh (Sukey) Leshnick ( is a principal and director of the Education Division at Social Policy Research Associates. Jackie Statum Allen ( is education portfolio director at the Bush Foundation. Daniela Berman ( is an associate at Social Policy Research Associates.


Chandler, S. (n.d.). One classroom, many paths. bMagazine. Available at

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