Haitian Heritage: Profiles in Leadership

Guiding Students to Success, With Patience and Understanding
Posted on 12/10/2019
Nadilia Charles

Nadilia Charles began her career with the School District of Palm Beach County in 1998 as an English teacher at Congress Middle School. She held positions as an English for Students of Other Languages (ESOL) Guidance Counselor at Boynton Beach Community High, and an ESOL Coordinator at Lake Worth Community High School. In August 2018 she moved into her current position as an ESOL Instructional Specialist.

“I started as a regular English teacher but soon found my passion in the ESOL field,” Charles said. “Being from a family of immigrants, I understand the reality of ESOL students. I have a passion for education that was inspired by my high school teacher, Ms. Cohen, and I love supporting my ESOL students.”

A native of Haiti, Charles came to the United States at the tender age of three along with her parents. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a master’s in General Education from Florida A&M University, in addition to a master’s degree in Guidance and Counseling from Florida Atlantic University.

In her current role, she oversees the Bilingual-Bicultural ESOL School Counselors, Social Services Facilitators and Interpreters, as well as providing support and training. She also supervises initiatives to engage ESOL parents, enhancing the collaboration between schools and families.

Charles also serves as a Youth Mental Health First Aid Trainer, presenting workshops to parents of ESOL students about the importance of parental involvement and academic awareness. She helps families navigate the school system, which she hopes will encourage children to pursue post-secondary education, something she knows they are capable of achieving.

“ESOL students want teachers to know that they are just as smart as everyone else, they just need to learn the language,” she said.

Charles supports students in the District as well as those in the community at large, serving as a member of the Haitian Educators Association of the Palm Beaches, an organization that advocates for Haitian students and provides scholarships to needy families.

Her efforts have brought her acclaim, as she became the first ESOL Guidance Counselor to win the High School Counselor of the Year Award in Palm Beach County in 2012.

Along with encouraging students to increase their English proficiency, Charles recognizes the value of students maintaining their native language to ultimately become bilingual, something she is thankful for in her own life.

“I’m grateful to my father for making sure I kept my Haitian Creole language and heritage although I came to the United States at an early age,” Charles said. “I learned about my history and embraced all the aspects of my culture; the food, music, cultural norms, and the importance of family and spiritual beliefs.”

Charles plans to go back to school and obtain a degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, a profession she would like to pursue when she retires from the School District.

Her current occupation and post-retirement goal will allow her to stay true to her belief in the ability of each child to succeed, and the importance of giving children the tools they need to thrive.

“I think that every child can achieve and fulfill their intellectual potential,” Charles said. Patience, understanding, and guidance just need to be there and that makes all the difference.”


The School District of Palm Beach County