Summer camp addresses shortage of bilingual teachers in Texas schools

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Recent high school graduates of the Fort Worth Independent School District who are prospective bilingual education teachers will spend a few days at the University of North Texas next month for an introduction to college life and their future teaching careers.

The Future Bilingual Teachers Academy will bring about 30 new high school graduates to the UNT campus in Denton July 10-13. They will talk to UNT professors and teachers from the Dallas and Fort Worth school districts, learn how to create lessons plans and tour the UNT campus during the program. The academy participants will stay in UNT residence halls and eat in UNT cafeterias during the week to get a glimpse of college life, with all of their expenses paid.

Dr. Rudy Rodriguez, director of UNT's bilingual/English as a Second Language program, says the Future Bilingual Teachers Academy addresses Texas', and the nation's, shortage of bilingual education teachers.

"It's a program that connects the high school students with the university for the purpose of encouraging them to consider teaching as a viable career option," he says. "This is just one of the different projects that we have underway in the bilingual/ESL program, and one that we consider extremely important in our overall efforts to address the bilingual teacher shortage."

The summer academy is part of a year-round program in which high school students learn about the benefits, rewards and challenges offered by the teaching profession. During the year, faculty and staff members from the UNT bilingual/ESL program visit high school campuses to talk with students and their parents. They also monitor progress of academy participants who go on to college or postsecondary school and make sure they have the information they need to succeed.

Jaqueline Silva, a 2003 graduate of John Jay High School in San Antonio and now a UNT senior, attended the academy as a student in 2003 and has been a volunteer for the past two academies.

She says that during the academy, UNT professors "allowed us to create our own lesson plans as if we were teaching a specific subject to our students."

"That lets you see how much you have to put into it," she says. "That firsthand experience helps you decide whether this is the career for you."

Silva has worked as a teachers' aide for a bilingual program in Carrollton and plans to become a bilingual teacher when she graduates.

She says bilingual teachers "have to have a passion" for their careers.

"If you have a teacher who's not excited about teaching, then those students won't feel the need to try and reach their highest potential," she says.

Joe Dugan, coordinator of UNT bilingual/ESL program, says some students who attend the summer academy "have never heard that they can be in college."

"It's a tremendous boost for them to be sitting in a college classroom, surrounded by people who are supporting them. For the first time, a lot of them are realizing, ‘I can do this,'" he says.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108