Associate Professor of Education Katie Brooks has been awarded a $2 million U.S. Department of Education grant to train 80 current or potential teachers to become licensed to teach English Language Learning (ELL) students.
The five-year grant is intended to help alleviate the chronic shortage of English as a New Language (ENL) teachers. The grant will pay for 20 college graduates who have a bachelor’s degree in a licensable area such as biology, math, social studies, world languages, or English to get both a teaching license and an ENL license.
An additional 60 teachers who are already licensed will add ENL certification to their license. Twenty teachers will be from the Indianapolis area and 40 will be from Kokomo and surrounding communities.
“The shortage of ENL teachers is so bad in Indiana that a lot of kids are not being served by licensed teachers; they’re being served by paraprofessionals who’ve had 2–3 days of training,” Brooks said. “This is deeply needed in our state.”
Also as part of the grant, Butler College of Education (COE) ENL, reading, special education, and early childhood faculty will collaborate with each other and with representatives of Indiana immigrant communities to integrate ENL theory, research, and practice throughout the curriculum used to train both content area and ENL teachers.
The first year of the grant will include curriculum development and recruiting participants. Brooks said the priority in recruiting will be to find bilingual paraprofessionals who have a bachelor’s degree and are already teaching. “We want to help those people get their teaching license and support them along the way.” Teacher training will be the focus after that.
“Everything we will be doing will be job-embedded coursework,” Brooks said. “We’re not having teachers do anything that doesn’t directly apply to their jobs. So instead of writing a paper for me, they’re going to create professional-development modules where they’re going to do teacher research and share what they’re learning. I want everything they do to make a difference in their schools and in the broader community.”
Brooks said the Butler Center for Citizenship and Community, the Indiana Department of Education State, and the Mayor’s Immigrant Task Force helped with planning the grant proposal. As part of the grant, Butler will work with Indianapolis’s Immigrant Welcome Center to promote family and community involvement. Donald Braid, Director of Butler’s Center for Citizenship and Community, said this partnership “demonstrates the University’s commitment to immigrant and refugee issues through service.”
Under a five-year grant Brooks received in 2006, teachers went to the clubhouses in the apartment complexes where many immigrant students lived and led parent-involvement activities. In the process, teachers learned more about the families and families came to understand how the schools worked.
That kind of collaboration will continue under this grant.
Brooks said training teachers to work with students who are learning English also benefits native English speakers.
“ELLs are not the only ones who struggle with language and literacy development,” she said. “So when you help teachers think about how they can make this material more understandable for students, you’re not just doing that for ELL learners—you’re doing that for everybody.”