Nearly $3M grant will help WMU increase ESL-endorsed teacher workforce

Contact: Nicole Leffler

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A new grant will help Western Michigan University fill a critical need for teachers of multilingual learners (MLs) in Michigan. Dr. Selena Protacio, principal investigator (PI), and Dr. Virginia David, co-PI, both from Western Department of Special Education and Literacy Studies, have been awarded a $2.96 million National Professional Development (NPD) Program Grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition. The NPD Program provides grants for eligible entities to implement professional development activities intended to improve instruction for MLs and assists education personnel working with MLs to meet high professional standards.

The grant will fund Project Teaching for Equity and Achievement of Multilingual Students (TEAMS) over a five-year period. Project TEAMS will provide a comprehensive professional development program to 75 in-service teachers and 60 pre-service teachers who will earn 24 credits in an English-as-a-second language (ESL) graduate program, which will qualify them for the Michigan ESL endorsement provided they pass the ESL certification sub-test. Supported teachers will receive $10,500 scholarships that will increase up to $11,000 in year five in addition to $300 for books and $129 for ESL endorsement test fees. In-service teachers will also be provided up to $1,000 for materials and resources for a project they will implement to address equity and access for multilingual learners in their schools.

A portrait of .

Dr. Virginia David

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Dr. Selena Protacio

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Dr. Cody Williams

Aside from coursework, participants will receive individualized coaching on their instruction for multilingual learners. TEAMS will also create a bank of high quality videos which could be used for teacher education programs and professional development across the state.

Michelle Williams, manager of the Special Populations Unit and Director of Title III Programs at the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), says, “MDE joins Western Michigan University in celebrating their receipt of the 2022 National Professional Development grant award. The NPD grants awarded to WMU have been instrumental in helping Michigan to increase the number of ESL-endorsed teachers by double over the last decade. Michigan has over 90,000 multilingual, or English, learners. Supporting our teachers means supporting our students. We are pleased that Michigan teachers and students will continue to benefit from WMU's efforts.”

The project will be evaluated by Dr. Cody Williams, assistant professor of science education and director of Science and Mathematics Program Improvement (SAMPI), a center within the Mallinson Institute for Science Education in WMU’s College of Arts and Sciences.

David and Protacio were part of a team that was previously awarded $2.6 million to fund Project English Learners and Teacher Education (ELATE).

“We are honored to have been awarded our second National Professional Development grant from the U.S. Department of Education. This will allow us to continue to work with school districts and support teachers in earning their ESL endorsement in order to address the critical shortage area of English as a second language in Michigan. An exciting part of this new grant project is the substantial scholarship for undergraduate students as well so they can leave WMU with an ESL endorsement," shares Protacio.


Dr. Selena Protacio is professor of TESOL and literacy studies, and is interim chair of the Department of Special Education and Literacy Studies. She holds a Ph.D. in curriculum, instruction, and teacher education with a language and literacy emphasis from Michigan State University and an M.Ed. in teaching, learning, and teacher education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her bachelor’s degree is in communication research from the University of the Philippines-Diliman. Prior to earning her graduate degrees, Protacio worked as an English teacher in the Philippines, which is her native country. Her research interests primarily focus on the literacy motivation and engagement of English learners in K-12 settings. She has also conducted research focused on parental and family engagement of immigrant families in the U.S. Protacio serves as editor of the international, peer-reviewed journal Reading Horizons.

Dr. Virginia David is faculty specialist and coordinator of the TESOL program. She received her doctorate degree in second language studies from Michigan State University in 2015 and her M.A. degree in teaching English as a second language from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. David received her B.A. degree in English language and literature from Universidade Federal do Espirito Santo, in Vitoria, Brazil, which is her native country. She has taught English as a foreign and second language for over 14 years and serves on the board of the Kalamazoo Refugee Resource Collaborative and MITESOL, the professional organization of ESL professionals in Michigan. Her research interests include second language (L2) interaction, L2 writing and assessment, among others.

Dr. Cody Williams is an assistant professor of science education and director of Science and Mathematics Program Improvement (SAMPI). He has worked with SAMPI since 2011 and has served on the evaluation teams for several projects funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), U.S. Department of Education and the MDE. Current and past projects include a U.S. Department of Education NPD project, several Michigan Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP) projects, the MDE Improving Teacher Quality Competitive Grants Program Title IIA project and WMU’s Woodrow Wilson Fellows project.

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