Equipped for Multicultural Classrooms

Photo by Duane Zehr

By Matt Hawkins
December 16, 2014

Three of Bradley’s teacher education programs will include English as a Second Language (ESL) endorsements starting in Fall 2015. As a result of the Illinois State Board of Education’s approval granted this fall, the University will become the first in the state to embed ESL endorsements in its redesigned elementary education and new middle school education programs.

As a result, future educators who complete degrees in early childhood education, elementary education or middle school education will qualify for a minimum of two endorsements upon graduation.

“I’m so excited,” Associate Professor Dr. Cecille Arquette said. “We’re glad we’re taking a leadership role in higher education to reach people who don’t speak English as a first language.”

The Illinois State Board of Education recently rewrote standards for future elementary and middle school teachers, with new rules for secondary education to be published in 2015.

Bradley’s teacher education faculty focused on the growing population of English-language learners (ELL) as they revised the teacher preparation programs. In Illinois, about 10 percent of the K-12 population is comprised of ELL students. Those students are no longer concentrated in urban districts, but are part of the student population in many suburban and rural districts.

“This revision is incredibly timely,” teacher education department chair Dr. Dean Cantu said. “This is the first year in which minorities are a majority in Illinois public schools, including nearly 25 percent of K-12 students who are Latino/Latina, so we’re only going to see an increase in demand for teachers with the ESL endorsement.”

Future educators will also benefit from increased field experiences in the new and revised programs. They will have three classroom experiences dedicated to ELL students in addition to the four experiences already incorporated into training.

Three faculty with international backgrounds and experience will teach ESL endorsement courses, including South Korea native Dr. Hwa Lee and Finland native Dr. Heljä Antola Crowe. In addition, Arquette has worked with ELL students in New Mexico, has taught in Africa while in the Peace Corps and has worked with students as a Fulbright Scholar.

“Our teachers will be well-prepared in content and pedagogical areas,” Associate Professor Dr. Jean Grant said. “They will know and understand the students, which will make them highly qualified to teach.” 

In addition to the new and revised programs, the early childhood program has been revised to include the embedded ESL endorsement for Fall 2015. That will be submitted to ISBE next year for approval.

Completion of these programs will qualify graduates for an Illinois teacher license at the following age and grade levels: early childhood education (birth-second grade), elementary education (grades 1-6) and middle school education (grades 5-8).  Bradley also offers teacher preparation programs in art education and music education (grades K-12), and secondary education (grades 9-12) programs in biology, chemistry, English language arts, family and consumer science, history/social studies, mathematics and physics.