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Mariana Castro

Qualitative Research Director


At the start of her career, Mariana worked with students with significant disabilities and later with bilingual and multilingual students and their families in Madison schools. She also taught science, ESL and bilingual education and coordinated and supported the programming of bilingual programs in the district. Mariana joined WIDA in 2006 to lead professional learning. Since then, she has held positions directing standards development, and research and evaluation. Some of her development projects include WIDA Standards and related initiatives for early years and K—12 in English and Spanish. As a teacher educator, Mariana served as adjunct faculty at Edgewood College and UW—Whitewater, and briefly coordinated the secondary ESL certification at UW—Madison.

Mariana has a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the UW—Madison and a master’s degree from UW—Whitewater. She currently serves as the principal investigator for research related to multilingual students’ language practices, curriculum and instruction in dual language immersion programs, and teacher professional learning.

Mariana brings over 30 years of experience in education to her research and development work. In her research, Mariana integrates her background as an educator, her passion for working with bilingual and multilingual children, youth and their teachers, and her commitment to social justice

Jon Nordmeyer

School Network Director


Jon is an international educator and researcher. From 2015 to 2023, he served as the WIDA international programs director, guiding the research, development and implementation of WIDA resources to support a network of over 500 international schools. He comes to the MLRC with more than 30 years as a teacher leader in K—12 international schools in China, Ecuador, The Netherlands, Taiwan, Turkey and Thailand. He co-edited the book Integrating Language and Content (TESOL 2010) and has published articles in The International Educator, Journal of Staff Development, International Schools Journal, Educational Leadership, Current Issues in Comparative Education, Teachers College Record and Global Education Review. Jon holds a BA in Classical Archaeology from Dartmouth College, an MA in TESOL from School for International Training and is pursuing a PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the UW—Madison. Jon’s work focuses on how global networks can support school improvement, both within and across international school communities.

Esther Bettney Heidt

School Network Researcher


Since 2005, Esther has worked in the field of international education as a classroom teacher, school administrator, teacher educator and educational researcher, primarily based in Latin America. Esther holds a PhD from the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at the UW—Madison (U.S.A.). For her dissertation, she engaged in collaborative research with teachers and students at an international school in Colombia as they reimagined and explored how their language programs, policies, and practices could better serve multilingual learners. Esther has a robust publication record, including articles in the Journal of Language, Identity and Education, Current Issues in Comparative Education and Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics, as well as several book chapters. She has taught undergraduate and graduate-level education courses at the UW—Madison, Buffalo State University, and Queen’s University (Canada). Her work reflects her commitment to support, advocate for and engage in research that centers the experiences of multilingual students, their families and their schools.

Amanda Kruger

Research Program Manager

Amanda Kruger is the research program manager for the Wisconsin Center of Education. She worked in a local research practice partnership for 5 years at WCER prior to joining the MLRC in July 2023 half-time. Amanda assists with grant applications, research agenda development, community outreach, dissemination, and everything else research related!

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