College Times

MCC Gets $1.9M Grant to Support Bilingual Teaching Community

By Jacob Wipf • College Times

Published: Friday, June 29, 2012

Updated: Friday, June 29, 2012

MCC Bilingual

Courtesy MCC

Members of MCC’s Education Studies Department responsible for writing the TL3C grant application. From left to right, Karen Guerrero, Nora Reyes and Beth Alsen. Guerrero is now the director of TL3C.

Teachers and students of English as a second language will get a boost in training, support and service thanks to a $1.9 million grant awarded to the Mesa Community College Education Department by the US Department of Education.

With the grant money, MCC is launching the Teachers of Language Learners Learning Community (TL3C) Project, a program designed to increase the number of qualified teachers of those learning English and provide more support for college and university instructors who train these prospective teachers. Some of the funding will also go to scholarships to make money less of an obstacle for students interested in teaching.

“We want to ensure that people who have a passion to teach English learners have all the resources they need and the best role models to help them do it,” said Karen Guerrero, one of the project’s grant writers and now the director of TL3C.

An important component of the teacher training will be direct experience with language learners. The program will require 300 hours per year of service learning in local classrooms.

“[Teaching candidates] will be able to learn the strategies in the classroom and then go right out and apply them,” Guerrero said.

She added that beyond helping with training and assisting language learning students, classroom contact helps motivate aspiring teachers by showing them the difference they can make in young people’s lives.

Current teachers of language learners will also receive assistance, specifically in developing curricula that emphasize science, math, engineering and technology (STEM) subjects. Higher education faculty who instruct teachers will also receive training focusing on STEM, with the overall goal of giving language-learning students better instruction in these areas and more exposure to science and math related careers.

STEM has become a point of emphasis throughout American education over the last few years, with politicians and other figures frequently talking about its importance in bolstering America’s economy and international stature.

MCC applied for the grant in spring 2011, recognizing the need for improved English language instruction in a state and region with a quickly growing number of English language learners. Funds from the grant are dispersed over five years, with MCC receiving over $399,000 this year. The US Department of Education awarded 73 such grants to colleges and universities across the country.

Rather than solely emphasize teaching English to those with a different native language, TL3C focuses on developing dual language education programs with a mix of English language learners and English speakers. Guerrero said that while bilingual classes haven’t always fared well politically in Arizona, they have a number of benefits over purely English education programs.

Students who already speak English get the chance to learn a second language, which Guerrero noted is a valuable asset in an increasingly global community. Those who are learning English get more exposure to the language through daily interaction with their classmates as opposed to being grouped exclusively with other non-English speakers. They can also more easily pick up content because half of the instruction is given in their native language.

“This helps them understand the content better as they go along,” Guerrero said. “In programs that aren’t bilingual we spend so much time teaching them English that by the time they’re comfortable with the language they’ve fallen behind in other subject areas like math and science.”

Guerrero fully believes in the value of bilingual education and has enrolled her own children in a dual language program. She said another benefit of the dual language approach to English education is that every child gets a chance to act as a role model for their classmates. Together they learn to communicate more effectively and understand people of different backgrounds, cultures and languages.

“It’s a win for everyone,” she said.

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