Contact: Wendel Sloan at 505.562.2253
Reporter: Helena Rodriguez
PORTALES—Eastern New Mexico University has been approved by the Public Education Department to offer he state's only 12-hour Alternative Endorsement in English as a Second Language.
This spring, 53 students will complete the innovative distance-learning endorsement. Teachers from throughout the state, even as far as Shiprock, take advantage of the program without being required to set foot on the ENMU
campus. Instead, they work in collaborative groups throughout the two-year program. They only meet formally with the instructors at the beginning and end of each semester via Polycom computers in which students and instructors can see each other on their computer monitors.
Most ESL endorsement programs require 24 hours to complete, according to Dr. Julia Rosa Lopez-Emslie, a professor of bilingual education at ENMU. Dr. Lopez-Emslie said the ENMU program was developed in collaboration with Kansas State University. The program is in its fifth year. School districts pay the tuition and fees, and teachers earn graduate credits that can count towards a master's degree, in addition to the ESL Endorsement.
Lockwood Elementary School in Clovis will have the biggest cluster of teachers completing the program this spring. Fifteen teachers will be recognized during the closing session and will receive a Certificate of
Completion for the ESL Endorsement on May 10.
Shellie Lasiter, a special education teacher at Lockwood, said that the program has given her a sense of reassurance that she was already doing some of the right things in her classroom. She also said the ESL program was an eye-opener in other ways. "I learned a lot of things I didn't know before. There were a lot of things I learned about second language acquisition as well as myths and realities."
Ms. Lasiter added, "The program helped us not only to see things from the Students' points of view, but also from the parents' points of view. This not only put us in their place, but helped us see what our school lacks and
needs to be effective in this area."
The focus on the endorsement is to prepare teachers to work with students who don't speak English as a primary language. "There is an incredible need for ESL endorsements," Dr. Lopez-Emslie said. "Most teachers don't know anything about teaching English as a secondary language and we need teachers
who know so they can teach others."
The ESL program is flexible. Students are assigned to small groups and then the groups arrange on their own when they are going to meet and complete projects, including a portfolio and personal journal. Typically, it takes
two years to complete the program, which is only offered during the academic year.
The ESL Endorsement Program is for teachers from kindergarten up to 12th grade. However, Dr. Lopez-Emslie said that middle and high school grades are the most critical-need areas. Dr. Lopez-Emslie added that research shows that it is easier for students to learn English along with everyone else rather than being placed in a separate classroom.
Dr. Lopez-Emslie said that while there are many students in New Mexico schools who do not speak English as a first language, most teachers in the United States do not speak a language than English. "The passion for me in this program is to reach out to teachers who need to know how to reach out to the non-English speakers." She noted that principals and school administrations have completed the program as well.
While ENMU is in the process of reaching out to teachers about this ESL endorsement program, Dr. Lopez-Emslie said the College of Education will also encourage undergraduate students planning to be teachers to complete ESL endorsements.