By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — Demand for teachers who work with students learning English as a second language is growing, and St. Ambrose University has developed a new program to address the need.
Beginning this academic year, St. Ambrose offers English as a Second Language (ESL)/English Language Learner (ELL) endorsement. Richard Robertson, assistant professor of teacher education at the university, said the endorsement program has been four years in the making.
“There is a high need here in the Quad-Cities. Look at our demographics,” he said, referring to the increasing number of non-English-speaking students. “Some school districts in the state (of Iowa) have students who speak up to 55 different languages.”
The Davenport Community School District has identified 22 different languages spoken by students, said Jennifer Alongi, curriculum and instructional specialist for the district. “In the past it was primarily Spanish-speaking students in the classroom. That’s not necessarily so any more. There are many from different nations in Africa, Asia and throughout Europe.”
The ESL/ELL endorsement is available for current university students, teachers already in the field and for those who would like to teach adults English, Robertson said.
To teach in the elementary school level, teachers need to major in elementary education and get an endorsement in any number of areas such as reading, mathematics, Spanish or ESL/ELL. Those teaching at the secondary level need to major in a particular subject such as history and get an endorsement in education. Those wanting to teach adults can earn an English minor, which includes the ESL/ELL classes, through St. Ambrose.
Classes will be offered at night and online so that those employed full-time can take the classes as well.
The endorsement program has been approved by the Iowa Board of Education.
Both Robertson and Alongi encourage current teachers to consider obtaining the endorsement. “There is a good chance you will have a student who does not speak English in your class at some point (in the public schools),” Alongi said. “And you can learn techniques to working with these students.”
Alongi earned an ESL endorsement several years ago and taught ESL classes for four years before assuming her current position.
“As a university we talk about social justice,” Robertson said. “This is a way we are responding to a need in the Quad-City area and the state.
“With a strong teacher education program and an orientation to social justice, St. Ambrose is in a unique position to prepare students and current teachers for this important and growing field that offers great career opportunities.”
The 24-credit program will be offered in a convenient, part-time night and online format, and is a K-12 endorsement. An English minor program for non-teachers also is available. For more information, contact Robertson at (563) 333-6332 or RobertsonRichard@sau.edu.