Just imagine: You don’t know English, yet you’re sent to school where that is the primary language. Your family knows very little English, and they certainly never experienced this school system. You feel lost.
“I think the biggest challenge is to find the personnel in the schools who are well equipped, and culturally sensitive enough, to advocate for these children, many of whom are sons and daughters of migrant workers,” said Dr. Andrea Hellman, assistant professor of English at Missouri State University. “Not just with other teachers, but also with their own families.”
Federal funding awarded
Hellman recently was awarded $504,284 by the U.S. Department of Education for Improving English Language Teaching in the Ozarks, or IELT Ozarks. This federally funded Title III program will help to implement and evaluate teacher training of English language learners in collaboration with the Springfield Public Schools, Monett and McDonald County school districts over the next five years.
“We are bringing together people who really care about English language learners in their region and trying to design a program that is sensitive to the local context, within the local curricula and delivered in a way that teachers feel empowered,” said Hellman, who also counts English as her second language. “We want teachers to feel they can teach English language learners with advocacy rather than feel, ‘This is too overwhelming.’”
The Missouri English language learner endorsement will now be offered completely online. Hellman noted that this is especially helpful for in-service teachers and those located in rural areas.
“I think that everybody is looking forward to having more qualified teachers,” she said.
This online endorsement program will be 100 percent supported by the grant from the U.S. Department of Education during the planning period and the first four and a half years of implementation at the total cost of $2.5 million.
About the grant
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the program provides grants to eligible institutions of higher education, in collaboration with states or districts, to implement professional development activities that will improve instruction for English learners.
Hellman added, “The funds will cover the special credentialing of 75 in-service teachers who are already serving English learners in their classes and wish to deepen their engagement with language minority families in order to further the academic achievement of their children.”
For more information, contact Hellman.