|College of Education program receives $1.39 million|
|Written by Douglas Bridges-O’Connor, Daily Vidette Senior Staff|
|Monday, 16 January 2012 15:14|
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement granted the ISU College of Education an award of more than $1.39 million for a new five-year grant for Transitioning Paraprofessionals into Teachers of English Learners.
The TPTEL grant will help many Chicago-area elementary school paraprofessionals make the transition to certified teacher with bilingual and English-as-a-Second Language approvals.
“The objective of the grant is to identify just over 50 paraprofessionals working in our partnering districts and to assist them in completing their coursework. Candidates come into the program with an associate’s degree or at least 60 to 70 hours of course work and, through the grant, we partner with these school districts to identify professionals within the schools that are currently working there. It’s like a ‘grow your own’ program.
“We are trying to identify qualified candidates within the school districts who are currently working in classrooms as teachers’ aides or paraprofessionals or as language liaisons,” Christina Moe, Transitioning Paraprofessionals into Teachers project coordinator, said.
Through the grant, Illinois state coursework will be provided in exchange for a commitment to teach for three years in a high-needs school district. Upon graduation, the teachers then commit to teach in those areas and, when they finish the program, will receive a bachelor of science in elementary education with a focus on bilingual/bicultural education. Those with the degree also become approved in ESL.
This grant will also qualify degree holders in Illinois for a Type 03 certificate, which is approved kindergarten through grade nine.
According to Moe, Illinois State partners with four Chicago-area school districts: Waukegan School District 60, North Chicago District 187, Round Lake School District 116 and Zion School District 6. Each district is considered high-needs, meaning they all have a need for fully-certified bilingual teachers.
“I think there is a great need for highly qualified bilingual teachers. The need is strong enough that sometimes school districts are sending representatives to Spain to find qualified teachers. The idea of our program is that we would like to grow those professionals from within. The need is so much so in these school districts that the federal government has identified the need and said, ‘yeah, this is an area that needs funding,’” Moe said.
For example, Waukegan has a large population of Hispanic families and many, if not all, grade levels require a bilingual classroom, Moe added.
Although this is a new program, it is not the first to address the needs of English learning students.
“Illinois State University had another grant for a similar program from 2003 to 2008 called the ‘Transition to Teaching’ grant, where 60 candidates were graduated over the course of the grant through Illinois State and are now working in these school districts. Many of them have stayed much longer than their three year commitment,” Moe said.
According to College of Education Dean Deborah Curtis, this grant is the third of its kind ISU has been awarded.
“This spring, the program will receive more than $257,000 to begin recruitment and training of paraprofessionals currently in service as teachers’ aides, or other types of support staff, in several Illinois school districts,” Curtis said.