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UTPA selected to participate in project to target bilingual teachers
By Melissa Vasquez, Senior Writer
316-7995
Posted: 02/25/2002
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The University of Texas-Pan American College of Education will do its part to increase the number of bilingual education and English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers in South Texas through the Bilingual Education Collaborating Alliance (BECA).

UTPA was recently selected by the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) to participate in the first BECA project funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

“Our participation in this program shows that UTPA and the College of Education have an excellent reputation state-wide,” said Dr. Jose Ruiz-Escalante, education professor. “IDRA selected only two universities to participate in the program – UTPA and Southwest Texas State University.”

This project will benefit specific school districts in Central and South Texas that have significant numbers of Limited English-Proficient (LEP) students and are in need of bilingual and ESL teachers. School districts in South Texas being targeted by BECA include Donna, Hidalgo and La Joya.

“The main goal is to increase the number of qualified bilingual education teachers in the area because there are many students enrolled in school who do not understand English, and the number increases every year,” Ruiz-Escalante said. “Students who speak a language other than English have the right to comprehensible instruction to foster their learning.”

A total of 85 qualified bilingual and Spanish proficient professionals and recent college graduates in fields other than education who are interested in becoming bilingual education or ESL teachers will be recruited, trained, certified and placed into the targeted school districts. The project will start this summer.

“The students (in BECA) will be taking courses offered through the Accelerated Certification Program, three courses this summer and more courses during the academic year,” Ruiz-Escalante said. “Participants in the project will be teaching in a bilingual classroom by fall 2002.”

Ruiz-Escalante said a special focus of the project would be the recruitment of professionals from Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries who are legal residents and can work in the United States.

UTPA will train 45 teacher candidates, while Southwest Texas State University will prepare 40 to teach in the Austin Independent School District.

In 2001, UTPA certified 285 bilingual education teachers, said Ruiz-Escalante.

According to the State Board for Educator Certification, UTPA leads in the number of graduating teachers and is first in the nation in preparing bilingual teachers.

Recruitment for the BECA project will occur through the end of March, and the selection of applicants will be completed in early April. Financial assistance will also be available to participants.

For more information or to apply to the BECA project, call 956/381-3627 or 956/381-3440.

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