GSE Awarded $1 Million to Train ESL Teachers

Posted: July 13, 2000 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Elena Barbre

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded the Graduate School of Education (GSE) a $1.22-million grant to fund the Bilingual Paraprofessional Career Ladder Project–a partnership between George Mason, Northern Virginia Community College, and three local public school districts to address the critical shortage of bilingual English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers in Northern Virginia.

The five-year project focuses on immigrant teacher’s aides in local school districts who have educational training in their countries but, because of lack of credits or different certification requirements, cannot work as full-time teachers in the United States. The Arlington, Fairfax, and Prince William public school systems will nominate 30 of these paraprofessionals to participate in the project, giving them the opportunity to receive training to become ESL teachers. Those who have no credits toward a degree are sent to Northern Virginia Community College; those who have 60 credits or more are sent to New Century College; and those who have a bachelor’s degree are sent to GSE to finish their training. Each educator is assigned a master teacher as a personal, on-site mentor throughout the training process.

“These paraprofessionals are full-time, tenured educators who already know the schools and the kids, and often share their students’ ethnic and language backgrounds,” says Jorge Osterling, an education professor and principal investigator on the grant. “They already have a lot of experience working in the field and are highly motivated to teach–they simply lack the certificate.”

The schools provide these paraprofessionals with full salary, benefits, and weekly leave time during their training, with the condition that when they finish, they will return to their school districts. The grant officially begins this fall. The first group of 15 educators enrolled in the program in June, and the second group begins in September.

“This is a creative way to address the tremendous shortage of ESL teachers in our area by tapping resources we already have,” says Osterling. “It’s a beautiful example of a partnership between two institutions of higher education and three school divisions who have been involved in planning from the beginning.”

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