By Andy Goodell
Teachers in training and those in practice will soon be able to teach English language learner students in more impactful ways thanks to a new $2.2 million grant project.
Associate professors with the University of Iowa College of Education David Johnson, and Lia Plakans, recently earned the funding from the US Department of Education for their Advocacy, Capacity, and Collaboration for English Learners in Iowa initiative (ACCEL).
“Teachers know that they want to help these students,” says Plakans. “If we’re able to contribute to that, I think that feels really good.”
So, how will this grant project help teachers instruct ELL students better?
The project includes leading-edge professional development for pre- and in-service teachers, which takes a holistic approach to showing teachers how to engage with students who are English learners. This will be done through increasing teacher capacity, effectiveness, advocacy, and leadership in both content area instruction and home language/dual language support, as well as family and community engagement.
What this means is in-service teachers will be doing ongoing professional development in a number of Iowa school districts thanks to ACCEL. In the U of I Teacher Education Program, the grant will support students obtaining their licensure in elementary or secondary education. Plakans and Johnson will also collaborate with the Teacher Leader Center on an English Language Learners certificate for teachers in training at the UI College of Education.
“The funding helps us train in-service teachers, train pre-service teachers, and develop our capacity to do both,” says Johnson.
ACCEL doesn’t stop with pre- and in-service teachers. There will also be summer workshops for administrators in Iowa school districts who are becoming interested in dual-language education opportunities.
Johnson notes there is a great need for this project, given that the number of English language learners in Iowa schools has increased by 452 percent over the past two decades.
“It’s important to improve equal educational opportunity for kids who don’t speak English as their first language,” says Johnson.
Starting now, ACCEL in Iowa will be in the developmental stage for one year during which Plakans and Johnson will collaborate with school districts, the State ELL director, and a team of faculty and students at the UI College of Education, including Leslie Schrier, Pamela Wesely, and Carolyn Colvin. The next four years after that will be dedicated to development for pre- and in-service teachers to help ELL students thrive in schools across Iowa.