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School of Education to offer master's degree emphasis in ESL/bilingual education

A master’s degree in Curriculum & Instruction with an emphasis in English as a second language/bilingual education will be added to the curriculum at the William & Mary School of Education.

Growing demand spurred the addition of the new degree program, according to Katherine Barko-Alva, assistant professor of ESL/bilingual education and ESL/dual endorsement program director. Establishing it was one of the expectations within the description of her job, which she began one year ago.

“Up until this past year, the school of education has worked in conjunction with the Department of Modern Languages and Literature to offer classes so that we can provide the ESL dual endorsement,” Barko-Alva said. “As the linguistic demands of our country increase, there is a need for a stand-alone M.A.Ed. in ESL/bilingual education program in addition to our dual endorsement option.”

The application for summer of 2018 enrollment is available now and prospective students should apply by Jan. 15, 2018, to be considered. The curriculum will consist of six classes, including an internship, plus core classes offered by the curriculum and instruction department.

More teachers are using more than one language in the classroom and seeking opportunities to be able to help their students who are English learners, according to Barko-Alva.

“Dual language programs are growing in the country,” Barko-Alva said. “We started with around 200, and right now we’re up to approximately 2,000 dual language programs nationwide. And in Virginia alone we have close to 13, most of them in Arlington, but we have several of them in Virginia Beach and also in Newport News. Harrisonburg, as well, has done a beautiful job with dual language education.”

The master’s in ESL/bilingual education provides more advanced training for professionals specializing in ESL/bilingual education than the ESL dual endorsement certification, which consists of three classes, a practicum and 150 hours of field experience and is designed for teachers of other subjects to work with English learner students in their classrooms.

The master’s degree would be more specialized for those who want to work as ESL and dual language teachers and will also prepare them to become ESL directors or supervisors in school districts, ESL/dual language instructional coaches, ESL consultants or to work in publishing with ESL/bilingual textbooks. The degree will also help prepare students as they move into a doctoral program in ESL/bilingual education, which isn’t currently offered at W&M.

“The new M.A.Ed. in ESL/bilingual education will help provide well-trained professional educators who can fill a critical need and shortage area in Virginia, nationally, and even internationally,” said Jeremy Stoddard, chair of the Curriculum & Instruction Department.

"This program will be unique in Virginia and will put William & Mary in a position to be a leader in the commonwealth on ESL and bilingual education."

Barko-Alva, who was an English learner herself after emigrating from Peru as a child, said the program incorporates technical training with the advocacy for students and parents that is engrained in the ESL teaching area at W&M.

“What we want and what we’re seeking with this degree is to develop the capacity of future educators who are going to be working with English learners,” Barko-Alva said. “They will become experts in language acquisition, understand the implications of language for academic and social purposes, know how to value English learners’ native language and how to incorporate native language use into their classroom practices — [They will be] future educators who understand students’ cultural and linguistic diversity as a resource and not as a problem.

“Designing and implementing classroom instruction that embraces additive perspectives — that’s what the program seeks to do.”

Teaching with compassion and hope is the framework of the current ESL dual endorsement program, and it’s one that faculty members hope to build on with the master’s program.

“It's work that needs to be done,” Barko-Alva said. “Every child must have access to equitable education. And as teachers, we should be prepared to support all students and their families.”