Georgia State approves $2.3 million grant towards bilingual program

The work of the ESCUELA project and its impact on bilingual instructors

Students work and relax in the Latino Student Services and Outreach office. Photo by Vanessa Johnson | The Signal

Georgia State has found a way to better accommodate bilingual students and teachers with a new program that carries multi-million dollar weight.

A team of four researchers from Georgia State’s College of Education and Human Development have received a shared five-year $2.3 million grant in order to train and prepare bilingual educators.

“We value multilingualism as a way to engage an increasingly connected world,” Director of the Center for Transnational and Multilingual Education Sue Kasun said.

Kasun, joined by Laura May, Cathy Amanti and Gary Bingham will work amongst dual language immersion teachers within the Equipping Schools, Communities, and Universities for Excellence in Language Acquisition (ESCUELA) program, which will develop activities funded by the grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition.

The research team will provide tuition support for future college attendees, who can show a certain level of Spanish language proficiency and career help for students in high school and their families interested in becoming dual language immersion teachers.

“The primary goal of this project is to bring together groups of people who are interested in growing the number of dual language immersion teachers in elementary schools and in the metropolitan area,” Laura May, Associate Professor of the College of Education and Human Development, said.

May said the biggest problem addressed by ESCUELA is the inability to staff the classrooms of foreign language instruction.

In order to staff dual language classrooms and allow the programs to grow, the ESCUELA project allows the faculty from the College of Education and Human Development to team up with four school districts, the Latin American Association, Georgia State’s Latino Student Services and Outreach (LASSO), the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and other partners to come up with better recruitment techniques

“We’ll be working with undergraduate advisors and LASSO to help match people who need support and people who have the capability and interest in becoming a teacher in dual language immersion classrooms,” May said.

The training process of the educators guided by Georgia State’s four instructors, will focus on providing additional support toward students who haven’t had proper schooling in the language they speak orally.

The major focus of the immersion program is Spanish.

Kasun, who is currently on a Fulbright Award in Mexico, has been a multilingual teacher in both Mexican and U.S. schools.

“We have an excellent program at [Georgia State] that speaks to the contextual needs of students and local populations in terms of how to best work with these populations’ rich backgrounds,” she said.

Kasun said being able to engage people in other languages and cultures have allowed her world to grow, and based on Kasun and the faculty’s research, students will also be able to develop these rich, cross-cultural skills and enjoy dynamic experiences that cross cultural boundaries.

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