Bilingual ed bolstered by scholarships

Southern Oregon University's School of Education will offer scholarships for more than 100 current and future teachers pursuing bilingual certifications with a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The grant will fund tuition and books for the eight-course program teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages. It will support a total of 25 students each year for the next five years &

15 teachers already teaching in Jackson, Josephine and Klamath counties, as well as 10 students pursuing their Master of Arts in teaching.

"The need is such that schools are hurting for people endorsed in English for speakers of other languages and bilingual education," said Gerald McCain, the ESOL coordinator at SOU. "That population is growing so fast we can't keep up with the need."

McCain said he expected the grant to significantly increase enrollment in the program. Ten to 15 percent of education students at SOU typically pursue a bilingual endorsement, he said.

"We assume we'll have more people interested than the spots we have," said School of Education Dean Geoff Mills. A screening process will be implemented that preferences students who show a commitment to teaching in Jackson, Josephine or Klamath counties, although the grant doesn't require teachers to remain in Southern Oregon, Mills said.

Sharon Cosand of Klamath Falls has already taken half of the classes toward her ESOL certification at SOU and will earn her MAT by next summer.

"I'm hoping, hoping, hoping that I'll be one of the recipients," she said. "I was in this prior to even learning about the grant. To me, if I'm able to be a recipient of this, that's just a bonus."

Cosand said she thought the money would encourage more people to pursue the extra credentials, but that a stigma against it still exists for some veteran teachers.

"When I told them I was getting my endorsements, they said, 'Oh, you'll get trapped there forever,' which was surprising to me," she said. "That's not a concern to me."

To earn the ESOL endorsement, students take courses on social, political and cultural issues; assessment of students; and second language acquisition. The program ends with a practicum experience in actual classrooms.

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