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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU receives grant to help train bilingual education teachers

New Mexico State University has received a $527,542 grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Language Affairs to help 45 teachers earn New Mexico's bilingual education endorsement -- training many teachers of minority students lack.

Teachers also will earn master's degrees through the four- year program, titled Preparation of Bilingual Education Teachers: A Focus on Literacy. Seventeen already have been admitted to the program leaving 28 slots to be filled. The program offers participating teachers four-year scholarships for tuition and books.

The state endorsement, which requires 24 hours of graduate course work, enhances a teacher's knowledge of the relationship between English and Spanish and trains them to build on what children already know, said Robert Gallegos, an adjunct professor in the College of Education and the program's co-administrator.

Gallegos said that the program is focused on reading so the participants will be able to address the reading underachievement problem of limited English proficient students in the Las Cruces, Gadsden, Hatch and Deming school districts. A New Mexico Department of Education report shows a large majority of students learning English in these districts fall below the national average for reading comprehension, Gallegos said.

Gallegos, who started his own education in a bilingual classroom and was unable to understand English until the fifth grade, said children in need of bilingual education come to the classroom with a lot of fear.

"Many children are afraid of what school is all about in the first place, but when you can't understand the language it only adds to that fear," Gallegos said.

Gallegos said many teachers are given waivers to teach bilingual students because there is a shortage of trained professionals. During the 1998-99 school year the Las Cruces, Gadsden, Hatch and Deming school districts reported that more than 100 teachers in bilingual education classrooms did not have a bilingual education endorsement, Gallegos said.

"Clearly, far too many children are learning English in bilingual education classrooms without the best prepared teachers serving them," he said.

For more information about Bilingual Education Teachers: A Focus on Literacy, contact Marc Pruyn, program academic coordinator, at (505) 646-5411.

Chris J. Minnick
Oct. 12, 2000