English-language learners benefit through teachers’ efforts | NevadaAppeal.com

English-language learners benefit through teachers’ efforts

by Maggie O'Neill
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Rod Case, from right, talks with ProTELL graduate Ingrid Frenna during a graduation party at Western Nevada Community College on Friday evening. In the red jacket is co-director Elza Major with co-director Susan Tierno next to her. Below, Alicia Vega holds an English/Spanish dictionary at the dining room table in her South Carson City home on Friday evening. She is competing in the English-as-a-second-language spelling bee tonight at WNCC.

After a year’s worth of night classes on Friday and day-long classes on Saturday to certify her as a teacher of English-language learners, Fremont Elementary School teacher Karin Randle plans to do even more.

“I feel like the learning has been tremendous,” the fourth-grade teacher said. “I’m going on to pursue a master’s in TESOL (teaching English to students of other languages) at UNR.”

Randle, one of 38 kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers to complete the English-language learner credits through the University of Nevada, Reno, can apply those toward a master’s degree.

“I always wanted to get a master’s degree in education, but could not quite find the niche I wanted to be in,” she said. “I’ve been teaching in Nevada for 22 years and each year we seem to have more English-language learners.”

Of 31 students in Randle’s Fremont class, 11 are English-language learners. Last year’s class was about the same.

“This program has offered me the opportunity to learn very practical and successful skills to not only be able to support our English-language learners but all students in the classrooms,” she said.

The certification program offered through the University of Nevada, Reno, is called ProTELL, for professional development for teachers of English-language learners.

University of Nevada, Reno project co-director Dr. Rod Case applied for grant money from the federal Department of Education and received funding for a program to teach teachers through 2007.

“When we’re done, we will have trained 250 teachers,” he said. “When you think about the teachers, this is more than a series of workshops after school. It’s a deep understanding of immigrant groups.”

For example, teachers studied populations from Central America for one of their units of learning.

“A lot of people don’t realize how diverse the Spanish-speaking population is,” Case said. “A lot of people assume that Mexican speakers are the same as those from Central America. It’s not the case at all.”

According to Susan Tierno, ProTELL project director, Nevada is the fastest growing state in the nation with English-learning speakers.

She said over the past four years, English-language learners in Nevada schools have increased by 72.5 percent. Statewide, over the past 10 years, a 202 percent increase in foreign-born, or recent immigrant population, has occurred.

“Nevada’s future needs are to meet the population of English-language learners by demonstrating accountability for No Child Left Behind,” she said. “ProTELL is meeting the accountability responsibility that NCLB requires.”

Next year, the ProTELL program will be available for teachers in the eastern portion of the state. The teacher limit has already been met. Students from this year’s ProTELL class graduated in a ceremony Friday night at Western Nevada Community College, where the classes have occurred.

“This is a big achievement for them,” said Reed Scull, University of Nevada, Reno Extended Studies Office coordinator in Carson City. “They worked during the day and took classes at night. I’m really so admiring of these teachers.”

Ingrid Frenna, a fifth-grade teacher at Empire Elementary School, graduated along with other teachers from ProTELL. As she explained, there are plenty of English-language students who can be helped by teachers certified in those areas.

“I don’t think that need is getting any smaller,” she said.

Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at mo’neill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.