Need for TESOL and Bilingual Educators Is Greater Than Ever

Need for TESOL and Bilingual Educators Is Greater Than Ever

Photo of students in classroom.

Since 2014, the Connecticut State Department of Education has listed TESOL certification as an area of greatest need, and bilingual education has been a high-need area since the mid-1980s.

We have 19 [English language learners ] in the school now. We’ve never seen numbers anywhere near this level before.

— Andre Burgos MA’23

Andre Burgos MA’23 has been teaching in Watertown, Conn., for just two years and has already taken the lead on building the critical infrastructure needed to help the growing number of his students who are English language learners. Now in his final year of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification at Fairfield, he is learning the skills needed to teach students of any language. In his district there is a large number of Albanian, Italian, and Arabic speakers as well as those from Latin America.

“We have 19 [English language learners] in the school now. We’ve never seen numbers anywhere near this level before,” he said.

How critical is the need in Connecticut? According to the Connecticut State Department of Education, the number of English language learners increased 24 percent between 2015 and 2020 (the most recent year for statistics). In Bridgeport, Conn., 20 percent of students in grades K-12 are non-native English speakers and speak 45 different languages combined. While the majority of these students were born in the U.S., they live in households where little English is spoken.

“Their oral communication is often good because they’re incentivized to pick up conversation and socialize,” said Burgos. “It’s their written language, the academic language needed for school, and their reading comprehension that lags behind.”  

The School of Education and Human Development (SEHD) TESOL program is one of only two programs in the state to offer initial licensure in TESOL. Additionally, it is the only program that offers a Sixth-Year Certificate for people with a master’s in TESOL who want to complete their initial certification and teach in K-12 public schools.

Many of the students we have in our program have come to us based on referrals from district partners, based on the significant relationships we’ve built over the years, said Anne Campbell, PhD, associate professor and director of TESOL, World Languages, and Bilingual programs.

 “Many of the kids I teach have had very little formal schooling in their home countries,” said Susan Lynch, who is teaching in Stamford, Conn. and will complete her TESOL certification this year. “I find Fairfield’s program to be cutting edge, and I love bringing new methodologies into the classroom. We support the teachers by previewing vocabulary, helping with strategies, and giving them ideas on how to present concepts. The teachers grapple with so many different levels [of students] in the classroom, so they are very receptive to any strategies we can offer them.”

Fairfield’s TESOL program has been recognized by the TESOL International Association since 2009 and offers courses in both online and hybrid formats. The master’s-only program is designed for professionals interested in teaching ESL to adults, or in working at NGOs or agencies that provide language instruction to immigrants and refugees.

Bilingual Education

In addition to TESOL certification, Fairfield offers a master’s in bilingual education as well as bilingual and secondary cross-endorsements for practicing teachers who are fluent in a world language and want to teach in a language other than English.

While learning how to teach language and academic content to students learning English, Fairfield TESOL and Bilingual program candidates also learn about the challenges of moving to a new country and adjusting to the academic culture of a new school. More recently, with the arrival of students who have experienced war and the trauma of relocating, Fairfield candidates are studying how these experiences may affect students and how to develop strategies to identify and address student needs.

Addressing Issues Beyond Language

“Rarely if ever do we talk about acculturation when assessing these incoming students, and poor acculturation can lead to mental health issues,” said Mike Regan, PhD, associate professor of psychological and educational consultation. Understanding the process of second language acquisition involves a deep knowledge of both language and culture, which are inseparable, he stressed.

Dr. Regan started his career as a Spanish teacher, then trained as a school psychologist and worked as a bilingual school psychologist in a large, urban school district. He’s now spearheading a nine-credit certificate in culturally and linguistically responsive assessment within SEHD’s School Psychology program, the only certificate of its kind in the state.

“Factors like the gender roles in families, the importance of education, and family trauma all play into how a student acclimates to school,” he said. Recognizing that the family has probably been traumatized by being uprooted, “we need to change ‘What’s wrong with you?’ to ‘What’s happened to you?’ My greatest fear is that we focus on the language issues and won’t recognize their other needs.”

Learn more about the School of Education and Human Development TESOL and Bilingual Education programs and other programs for working in K-12 schools and human development professions. You can also watch alumnus and TESOL educator Soraya Bilbao in the classroom.

Tags:  SEHD,  Top Stories


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