MCC Education Dept. Receives $1.9 Million Grant

Posted on June 11, 2012 by Sally Mesarosh

The Mesa Community College Education Studies Department has received a $1.9 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education for The Teachers of Language Learners Learning Community (TL³C) Project. Grant monies will be allocated over five years with the Department receiving over $399,000 this year.

Seventy-three grants were awarded to institutions of higher education throughout the United States who partner with one or more local school districts or state education agencies to improve instruction for English Language Learners.

The Mission of MCC is to excel in teaching, learning, and empowering individuals to succeed in the local and global community. The TL³C Project is designed to directly support the MCC mission by allowing preservice teachers, paraprofessionals, and Teachers of Language Learners (TLLs) to collaborate, grow, develop and, most importantly, effectively teach their language learners to help them attain high academic and linguistic achievement goals.

Dr. Nora Amavisca Reyes, TL³C Project Administrator and Education Faculty and Department Chair for the Education Studies Department at Mesa Community College stated, “The timing of this grant is perfect as school district resources are being strained to implement the recently adopted Common Core State Standards.  This project will allow for partnerships across P-20 levels that provide professional development support for practicing educators as well as empower pre-service teachers with high-quality, authentic learning experiences.  A priority of the project is to strengthen communications for those serving our K-20 populations, establishing a dynamic network of support for Teachers of Language Learners.”

As the number of English Language Learners continues to increase at a rapid rate, so does the need for highly qualified teachers and programs. The design of the TL³C Project addresses the critical community need for providing a quality, equitable education while also recognizing the value of learning a second language for native English speakers to better prepare them for being productive global citizens.  

To support this community need, the TL³C will increase the pool of effective teachers of language learners (TLLs) and improve instruction and support for TLLs in various programs at local Title 1 schools.

Partnering Title I elementary school sites supported by the TL³C include Valley View Elementary, Keller Elementary, and Gilbert Elementary School where the population of English language learners at these schools ranges from 11% to 40%.  

“English Language Learners have been underserved and it is time we elevate expectations for all students,” stated Dr. Reyes.

Aspiring teachers will be developed into highly qualified preservice teachers as they complete the courses required for their full SEI endorsement (required for all K-12 teachers in the state of Arizona) and their provisional English as a Second Language (ESL) endorsement prior to moving to the university where they will complete requirements for their full ESL or Bilingual Education (BLE) endorsement with their elementary degree.  

The TL³C will empower preservice teachers to support language learning through strategies that make listening, speaking, reading and writing an integral part of every learning experience. By giving preservice teachers the opportunity to work in classrooms with diverse students, they will be able to apply the strategies about which they are learning to help meet the needs of each and every learner in their classroom.  “Through the application of theory to practice, the relevance of college coursework will be emphasized as pre-service teachers begin to see the impact they can make on student learning and the importance of tapping student diversity as a resource for further learning rather than view it as an obstacle,” stated Dr. Reyes.

In addition, higher education faculty in various disciplines who instruct preservice teachers will be provided professional development opportunities focusing on science, math, language, and social studies courses that are aligned with Arizona’s English Language Proficiency Standards and the newly adopted Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  

The TL³C Project will promote Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) education and build upon the CCSS and Arizona’s English Language Proficiency (ELP) Standards to improve the preparation of all teachers through coursework, training, and curriculum development to better serve English Learners. STEM lessons and activities will develop the learner as a whole and expose children to science and math-based careers.  

A partnership with the Arizona Geographic Alliance will provide resources and support for preservice teachers by training them to use STEM curriculum. These lessons will be piloted in TLL classrooms, assessed for effectiveness, and disseminated through professional development opportunities at TL³C Consortium schools as well as districts across the state. Preservice teachers will be prepared to go out into the field with relevant coursework to serve English Language Learners in their local community.

Through developing and disseminating curricula, supporting TLLs, and developing effective preservice teachers, it is anticipated that more than 10 faculty, 20 preservice teachers, 20 TLLs, 10 paraprofessionals, and 500 children K-6th grade will be involved in the first year of this grant.  These faculty, TLLs, paraprofessionals, and preservice teachers will lead the way in improving educational services provided for Arizona’s English language learners. 

Dr. Reyes concluded, “The goal of the TL³C Project is to train and support teachers who will empower youth and future leaders. It will benefit native English speakers and English Language Learners as both bilingual groups are able to communicate with an increased number of people while improving their cognitive flexibility … the benefits of bilingualism.”

If you are interested in becoming an Education student at MCC or learning more about grant partnership opportunities please contact the Education Studies Department at 480-461-7904 or Julie Garner at julie.garner@mesacc.edu.