$2.2-Million Grant Will Educate ESL Paraprofessionals in New Mexico

The U.S. Department of Education recently issued a five-year $2.2-million grant which will allow school paraprofessionals the chance to complete their Bachelor of Education degrees while also earning an ESL endorsement. Under the terms of the grant, known as the 2+2 Career Ladder Teacher Licensure Program, teaching assistants from the Española and Santa Fe public school districts in New Mexico, will have an on opportunity to earn the ESL endorsement along with an associate degree from Santa Fe Community College and a bachelor degree from Highlands University.

“There’s a very high need for ESL teachers to work with the growing number of English language learners in elementary schools in Santa Fe and Española,” said Rodolfo Chavez, senior associate with Highlands University’s Center for Education and Study of Diverse Populations (CESDP). Chavez, who is also the project director for the grant, said that 30 bilingual ESL paraprofessionals will be selected and given the coaching and support they need to earn a B.A. in education from Highlands. In addition, the paraprofessionals will complete their ESL endorsement and teaching license.

An additional 30 tenured teachers from the two school districts will be recruited to act as mentors to the grant recipients. Chavez said that the mentorship component is integral in helping the paraprofessionals understand and satisfy the unique learning needs of ESL students. “We will prepare ESL paraprofessionals to become exceptional teachers who provide high-quality instruction to students,” he added.

Chavez, a seasoned grant writer, earned Highlands University one of the 49 grants awarded to 337 applicants due to the high quality of the proposal. He had also obtained a $1.7-million grant in 2012 which allowed 120 teachers in Northern New Mexico the opportunity to earn a master’s degree from Highlands.