Aquinas College Awarded $2.5 Million Grant to Address Shortage of ESL Teachers in Michigan

The U.S. Department of Education has designed a grant program intended to help address the shortage of English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers in Michigan, with Aquinas College in Grand Rapids selected as the recipient of a five-year, $2.5 million grant.

Partner school systems set to receive a chunk of this partnership grant include the Grand Rapids Public Schools, Kellogsville Public Schools, Kentwood Public Schools, Kent Intermediate School District, Wyoming Public Schools, the Diocese of Grand Rapids Office of Catholic Schools, Godfrey-Lee Public Schools, and Godwin Heights Public Schools.

The funding provided by this grant will allow district schools to develop and implement professional developmental courses designed to help recruit more English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers, as well as to help educators create new teaching strategies that can make learning more effective for English Language Learners (ELLs).

These courses will be available to all students pursuing a degree in education, teaching assistants, and current in-service teachers looking to expand their professional portfolio. Educators who complete these courses will be eligible for an ESL/bilingual teaching endorsement from the Michigan Department of Education.

One of the educators leading the way in obtaining this grant was Dr. Rui Nui-Cooper, an associate professor of education at Aquinas College. Dr. Nui-Cooper believes in Aquinas’ ESL program as a “model program” and wants to help make this platform of education available to more English Language Learners (ELLs). “This funding will allow us to address the crucial need for these educators in our community . . . and this will help us work collaboratively with our partner schools to better meet the needs of our students,” says Dr. Nui-Cooper.

Estimates by the Michigan Department of Education indicate that about 88,000 students in Michigan need an ESL education, but there are currently only about 300 ESL programs available statewide.

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