Professors get $2.6 million to train English as second language learners

Contact: Mark Schwerin
Photo of Dr. Selena Protacio.


KALAMAZOO, Mich.—In response to the exploding number of English language learners in Michigan, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of English Language Acquisition has awarded a $2.6 million grant to a team of Western Michigan University professors to boost professional development efforts for teachers working with English learners.

WMU is the only university in Michigan among this year's awardees to obtain funding.

About the project

Photo of Dr. Susan Piazza.


Drs. Selena Protacio and Susan Piazza, associate professor and professor, respectively, and Virginia David and Hsiao-Chin Kuo, assistant professors, all in the Department of Special Education and Literacy Studies, will use the five-year training grant to undertake the ELATE program, English Learners and Teacher Education. The effort will provide a rigorous and comprehensive professional development program for both pre-service and in-service teachers. WMU pre-service teachers who have an interest in earning their ESL endorsement can apply to be part of the pre-service cohort wherein they would take three out of seven courses in the program. The classes would be paid for by the grant.

Meanwhile, WMU has partnered with six local education agencies, which have high needs in terms of educators with an expertise in working with English learners. Project ELATE will provide substantial financial support for these in-service teachers as they work toward earning the English as a second language endorsement. In addition, other activities of Project ELATE include hosting an annual ESL conference as well as a Family and Community Engagement Symposium.

A pivotal effort

Photo of Dr. Virginia David.


"Being awarded this National Professional Development grant will allow us to increase the number of teachers with an English as Second Language endorsement in the state, and particularly in southwest Michigan," says Protacio, the project's principal investigator. "This is pivotal in addressing the shortage of ESL-endorsed teachers in the state."

The English learners those trained professionals go on to teach will benefit in the end, she notes.

"Our hope is that through our grant project, we ultimately will be able to help improve the educational experiences of the increasing number of English learners in the state," Protacio says.

Photo of Dr. Hsiao-Chin Kuo.


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