MELISSA CHICKER — News Writer
Southern joins a number of other colleges and universities, receiving a five year, $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant, to continue to improve the education of non-native English-speaking students, is just one of the 42 National Professional Development program grants totaling $14.8 million to support activities designed to improve classroom instruction for English language learners (ELs) throughout the country.
Southern’s Training for All Teachers (TAT) program will help in the efforts. This marks the third time that Southern has received a federal grant for the TAT program. The new funding will target specifically math and science teachers in Hamden and New Haven schools, K-12, for a chance to certify themselves in working and teaching ELs students.
“We use language to learn and to teach. It’s the number one tool we use and it’s a critical component for teachers to learn for those who don’t share the same number one tool,” said Lorrie Verplaetse, professor of World Languages and coordinator of the Masters of Science in Bilingual Education (TESOL).
ELs students are the largest growing public school population in the country and the state and are also doing the worst said Verplaetse.
“These grants will provide much needed assistance to colleges, universities and their local school partners in helping prepare new teachers and improving their content skills to better serve English Learners.” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a press release on the U.S. Department of Education’s website. “Teacher training is very important in our effort to ensure that all English Learners have competent and capable instructors in the classroom.”
The grant is one of the largest ever awarded to Southern and will run until the Spring of 2016. The focus of the training includes workshops that are made up of components to create comprehensible content, learning how to engage children in learning and having the teachers take the ideas and apply them to their lessons.
“Teachers will be more successful in their classrooms and students will better understand the subject matter because someone will be there working with them and teaching them,” said Verplaetse.
According to Verplaetse, this year TESOL will be creating a new one-day professional development training, offered to the public school systems throughout the state, with a special priority to New Haven and Hamden. The funding will not just be used in workshops, but also give teachers the chance to receive their masters in bilingual and multicultural education to become certified ELs teachers.
TAT will also offer two summer week-long curriculum institutes for entire math or science school departments who wish to modify their curriculum to better meet the needs of their fast-growing EL population and an online EL curriculum library. According to teachers who have taken the program in the past, the training has helped tremendously.
“I came into this course with four years of teaching experience in high school math and the wrong assumption that I was already implementing teaching strategies to make content and language comprehensible,” said Ricky Padro, math teacher at The Sound School in New Haven, who participated in the program last year. “In reality I was barely scratching the surface.”
Jen Brown, teacher of science at East Rock Global Magnet in New Haven, also participated in the TAT program.