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Chuck Carney
School of Education

Last modified: Friday, June 29, 2007

IU program turns out more ESL teachers

Accelerated certification program in School of Education awards 17 certificates

June 29, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind -- The latest cohort of teachers has completed the Tandem Certification of Indiana Teachers (TACIT) program, a federally-funded program offered by the Indiana University School of Education to more quickly certify English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers for the state of Indiana. Seventeen teachers picked up TACIT completion certificates during this week's retreat on the Bloomington campus.

Teachers from across the state and across disciplines came to the event to honor past and current program participants as well as take part in professional development seminars. Program director Faridah Pawan, assistant professor in language education, said the need for certified teachers has boomed in the last several years and continues to grow. Indiana has an average of one ESL-certified teacher per sixty students. The number of ESL students has quadrupled in the last decade.

The Community Schools of Frankfort has felt the strain of that growth. ESL director Brenda Ward said when she began her job eight years ago there were about 300 ESL students. Today there are around 900. For that reason, she said taking part in the TACIT program was vital.

"This has provided tremendous background for me," she said, noting that she learned about research and theory that affirmed and altered her practices. "I have everything to support my cause and to be a proper advocate and a courageous advocate for the student."

Many TACIT participants say the program emphasized advocacy for ESL students across curricula. Frankfort High School ESL teacher Bobbi Carter said the school has made an effort to ensure ESL student success outside classes where they are learning the language. She says speaking English well and understanding classroom instruction are different things. "A person might be able to speak with you very fluently and say 'hi, how are you,'" Carter said. "But to sit down and actually understand terminology from an academic classroom, those are unfamiliar words."

"Imagine taking a physics class in Russian," said ESL instructional coach Susan Adams from the Indianapolis Public Schools. "Even if you already knew a lot about physics, you would have trouble telling your professor what you knew about physics because you don't speak a lot of Russian and you certainly don't speak academic Russian," she said. Adams said many students from Mexico actually are ahead of their peers in math when they come to the U.S. "But their teachers don't know that," she said. "And they don't have any way to measure what the kids can do."

A couple of recent participants say they know the value of the program because they could have used it when they were in school.

"Honestly, this program has really helped me to understand my childhood, my ways as a learner and how I learned things," said Maribel Masoodi, now an ESL teacher at Lafayette's Tecumseh Junior High who grew up in one of the first Hispanic families in town.

Masoodi said Tecumseh is now around 16 percent Hispanic. She said she understands the feelings of English-language learners.

"When I didn't understand something, I kind of just played it off," she said. "I went along like I knew what they were talking about, made big observations, paid attention to other kids to try to figure it out without having to directly ask them what's going on."

Former immigrant laborer Tina Greene said her TACIT experience helped her as an instructor at Central Elementary School in Pike Township even though she said she relates to the experiences of ESL students. She added that more students are coming to Indiana from countries other than those that speak Spanish.

"We have Arabic students coming in. We have many, many African students coming in from Nigeria, and Liberia, and Euretria, and (teachers) all need to know how to address it." Greene credited her TACIT participation with giving her the skills to reach those students.

The IU School of Education began the TACIT partnership three years ago to address the shortage of ESL teachers. Teachers first complete the Interdisciplinary Collaborative Program, which develops collaborative curricula for students to learn subject matter as well as English, then take classes to complete TACIT.

MEDIA OUTLETS: The following comments are available as mp3 files on the IU School of Education Web site at

Greene speaks about how helpful TACIT training can be for teachers across curricula:

"It's going to help all the way around. We have Arabic students coming in. We have many, many African students coming in from Nigeria, and Liberia, and Euretria, with languages that are other than Spanish, and they all need to know how to address it. I do not speak all those other languages and yet I know how to reach those children. And it is because of the preparation that I've had as an ENL instructor that helps me beside the fact that I myself had to learn a second language and I can relate to the students and I can draw from those experiences."

Carter says the IU programs leading to ESL certification have bolstered her classroom practices:

"So through ICP and TACIT, I've been given enough data to back up what was truly intuition, and just good teaching strategies, but then you realize, this is a way to explain it so that administrators and the community will support it and open the doors of opportunity to these students."

Ward also says the programs have given backup to her practices:

"This has provided tremendous background for me. A lot of the gut reactions and gut philosophies that I have just jelled with what was right, but now I have the theory behind everything. I have the big names, the research, I have everything to support my cause and to be a proper advocate and a courageous advocate for the student."

Frankfort High School Algebra Teacher Jeanna (pronounced gee-nah) Johnson teaches a "sheltered algebra course," which consists entirely of English-language learners. She says her participation in TACIT has allowed her to be more aware of using the right words to explain concepts:

"I say table, or something, and I'm thinking mathematically, and they think about a table that you would set. And so, it's helped me discuss vocabulary, helped me take out their notions that they're picturing, and put in the picture I need them to be thinking about."

Masoodi says while she understands the feelings of ESL students, TACIT better explained her experience growing up in Lafayette as a Hispanic student:

"Honestly, this program has really helped me to understand my childhood, my ways as a learner, and how I learned things, how I processed things, which honestly, I never really realized it, because you just live through it and you don't sit there and think about how you're doing it. But you know, in elementary school, going to school, I guess at that time I was the only one, so teachers really didn't understand where I was coming from."

Adams says teachers must try to see learning from the ESL student's perspective:

"When I studied Spanish in high school, it was because I wanted to, and because I really enjoyed the process of picking up another language and it was completely my idea. These kids are not here because they want to be. And they don't particularly want to learn English, and it's a really rough time at 16 years old to pretty much be told that your identity as a Spanish-speaker is not valued. And you're just old enough to be aware of the politics that's going around you and to feel a loyalty to your home country and come into our schools and you're just told none of that's valid."