Now in their second year, the WNMU graduate certificate programs in Bilingual Education and Teaching English to Students of Other Languages (TESOL) prepare teachers who already have a teaching endorsement in another area to gain endorsement in bilingual education or TESOL.
The courses are taught at WNMU Deming by adjunct instructors who already have at least a master’s degree as well as an endorsement in one of the subjects, making them convenient for teachers in the Deming Public School District. “We have a good relationship with the Deming District. Most of our teachers are placed there,” said Professor Alexandra Neves, “Most of our alternative licensure teachers . . . are placed in Deming, so we already had this good relationship.”
Creation of the programs was partly spurred by the ruling in the Yazzie/Martinez v. The State of New Mexico legal case, Neves indicated. The judge in that case ruled that the state was insufficiently preparing students, especially English language learners, Indigenous students, low-income students and special education students. The bilingual and TESOL certificates at WNMU are designed to prepare teachers to better serve their students.
Neves explained how the ruling is especially relevant in a school district like Deming. “The lawsuit required districts to have this sort of culturally-responsive framework for teaching. Obviously, Deming district is close to the border; about 800 kids cross the border from Mexico every single day to come to school. It is a different context from, say, Albuquerque or Española,” said Neves. Because of this, it is an advantage to be able to offer the courses with adjunct faculty that speak both Spanish and English and are already familiar with the Deming area, she said, “They know the families, the community, the students, what the needs are in that district.”
Manuel Rodriguez, who directs WNMU Deming, agrees that the program helps teachers in Deming schools respond to student needs. “The students benefit from this,” he said, “because now teachers can follow up appropriately to our Deming students’ cultural and academic needs with more understanding of their background.”
Neves said that the programs are designed to fit around working teachers’ busy schedules, and the courses are designed to be relevant to the courses they teach. Said Neves, “The courses are very practical. They learn the theory but also application as well.”
According to Neves, WNMU has awarded about fifty graduate certificates in bilingual education and TESOL so far. Since WNMU started the program at Deming, Gadsden Independent School District has also joined with the university to train teachers in bilingual education and TESOL, and the College of Education is relaunching its bilingual certificates in Navajo and English through WNMU Gallup. The programs benefit everyone involved: the teachers gain a new endorsement as well as the knowledge and skills that accompany the certificate, WNMU solidifies connections with area school districts, and the districts themselves are better able to provide for their students. “It’s a win-win situation for all of us,” said Neves.
Ultimately, the program benefits students in the schools the most. “At the center of all this are the children of New Mexico,” Neves said, “There is a long-term benefit for the children who have teachers in the classroom that know what they are doing.”
This story is part of a series in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.