AAPI Heritage Month Profile: Zoe Nelle, ESL Instructional Specialist

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The joy of teaching and an appreciation for Dallas ISD’s diversity turned a temporary teaching assignment in the U.S. into a 28-year tenure in the district for Zoe Nelle. 

She currently serves as an ESL instructional specialist within the district’s Dual Language ESL department, where she has the honor of coaching and empowering teachers and staff to make an impact in the lives and academic pursuits of Emergent Bilingual students. 

 Nelle is an immigrant from the Bicol Region of the southern islands of the Philippines, where she was born and raised. In the early ’90s, at the age of 28, she came to Dallas as one of 75 teachers who were part of the first recruited class from the Philippines. At the time, Dallas ISD was in critical need of teachers and – with a shortage of applicants in the U.S. – chose to recruit teachers outside of the country. The district found highly qualified, caring, and experienced instructors in the Philippines. Many were certified to teach math, science, special education, English, social studies, and other subjects. To top it all off, there was no language barrier, as all the recruited teachers, including Zoe, spoke English very well.

Upon transitioning to the states, she taught reading language arts at Edison Middle Learning Center and worked hard to teach the students she met. This experience expanded her passion for teaching. 

“I really like teaching,” she said. “For me it was really looking at the diversity of Dallas ISD, and looking into how the students were learning the language and how I could reach them because of my own personal experience of learning English as a second language.”

Nelle comes from a rich legacy of educators and degreed professionals who left an indelible mark in their chosen fields in both the Philippines and the United States. In addition to education, work ethic, excellence, and striving to be the best were essential values instilled in her from childhood.  

“My family members are all degreed,” she said. “We’re also all in education in some way.”

 These values shape how Nelle strives to impact the lives of students by being a resource to teachers and administrators, as well as a vital part of her family. Her husband, Jimmy, is a longtime employee of Dallas ISD. Her daughter, Francesca, a 2021 graduate of Townview TAG Magnet High School, is currently studying radio, TV and film at UT Austin’s Moody College of Communications.

 “You’ll go places if you really work hard,” Nelle said. 

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