MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) – K-State has introduced a new program to create more bilingual teachers in the Dodge City School District.
Kansas State University said its Cross-Cultural and Multilingual Advocacy Center and partners in Dodge City will use a $2.9 million grant to strengthen bilingual education.
K-State reported that the RESPETAME – Reimagining Educational Systems by Practicing Equity and Translanguaging and Accessing Multiliterate Experiences – project is a national professional development grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Partners include Dodge City Community College and Dodge City Public Schools.
Socorro Herrera, executive director of the Center for Intercultural and Multilingual Advocacy, said the project aims to support change for emerging bilingual learners and their peers. The grant will provide professional development opportunities for preschool, elementary and secondary school teachers, as well as support for 20 bilingual students who are majoring in elementary education.
K-State noted that Herrera is the internationally recognized expert in biographical and culturally sensitive teaching and the principal investigator of the grant. She works with districts to support teacher capacity building and effective partnerships with families and communities.
Debbie Mercer, dean of the College of Education, said she believes the project will position Dodge City’s education system for future success.
“The power of this grant lies in the collaborative and longstanding nature of the relationship between Dodge City educators and K-State College of Education,” Mercer said. “This grant is somewhat unique in that it addresses both the immediate needs of bilingual learners in the community and the district’s efforts to attract more bilingual teachers of color to Dodge City classrooms.”
Through the project, K-State said K-12 educators will develop enhanced abilities to support language development and bi-literacy or multi-literacy.
Herrera said teachers will benefit from site-based professional development in culturally appropriate practices to maximize the sociocultural, linguistic, cognitive, and academic strengths of students and their families. In addition, she said secondary school educators will take courses leading to English certification for speakers of other languages.
Diana Mendoza, director of English to Speakers of Other Languages and Diversity of Dodge City Public Schools, said the grant is a chance to enhance current district initiatives and continue to build the bridge between the basic education, English teaching strategies and family engagement.
“The grant goals will serve as channels to provide teachers and staff with the support needed to meet the diverse needs of our school community,” Mendoza said.
K-State said the project also creates an innovative pathway for teachers to prepare bilingual students of color who want to stay in the city while earning their bachelor’s degree and teaching in the district. He said students will maximize dual credit opportunities before transferring to Dodge City Community College and then complete their bachelor’s degree online through K-State’s College of Education.
“We are excited for this fantastic opportunity to grow our pipeline of diverse and talented educators,” said Martha Mendoza, Principal of Dodge City High School. “This grant will allow us to invest in our current teachers and develop our own future teachers by supporting our high school students interested in becoming educators in Dodge City. As an English learner, I know firsthand the impact teachers have had on me when they appreciate my strengths and respond to my needs. I am thrilled that this project provides our district with new opportunities to enhance teacher capacity for culturally appropriate teaching.
K-State said the program will incorporate youth participatory action research and specialized seminars, counseling and hands-on experience to facilitate teachers’ understanding of themselves, learners and their communities. Upon graduation, students will be ready to serve local schools and the next generation of culturally and linguistically diverse learners.
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