New York City seeking more bilingual teachers

Updated: 2013-11-26 11:09

By Caroline Berg in New York (China Daily USA)

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 New York City seeking more bilingual teachers

Four of the five faculty members who teach in the CCNY bilingual certification program, from left: Nancy Stern, Carmina Makar, Jesus Fraga and Tatyana Kleyn. Not pictured: Dina Lopez. Provided to China Daily

New York City needs teachers who can speak more than English - including those conversant in Spanish and Chinese -is turning to the city's colleges for help.

"The New York City Department of Education approached us, telling us that there's a shortage of bilingually certified teachers, and if we would be able to provide a bilingual extension for current New York City teachers," said Jesus Fraga, director of a new bilingual certification program at the City College of New York's (CCNY) School of Education.

The program, which is funded by the New York City Department of Education (DOE), is in its second year and trains about 40 to 45 in-service teachers annually for state certification to teach in English and an additional language.

Most of the teachers enrolled in the program work in multicultural communities near CCNY, such as Washington Heights, East Harlem and the South Bronx, but some also work at schools in Brooklyn and Queens. The greatest need is for teachers who are fluent in Spanish, but there is also demand for teachers with Chinese, French or Haitian Creole language skills.

"In each of the cohorts, there are generally somewhere between two, three or four Chinese applicants, which is generally corresponding to the bilingual program population out there," Fraga said.

Apart from possessing fluency in English and an additional language, teachers interested in participating in the program must also be recommended by their school principals.

The teachers take 15 credit hours of classes in linguistics, multicultural education, teaching language arts and teaching content - such as math, science or social studies - in two languages. Classes are taught in the evenings and the DOE pays teachers' tuitions.

"Language and culture are intertwined and inseparable," Fraga said. "So, part of the bilingual endorsement is a course on education that's multicultural that really provides sensitivity and unpacks issues that may arise in teachers' classrooms or their schools, or communities."

Over the past 40 years, the number of foreign-born New Yorkers has more than doubled to about 3 million, or 37 percent of the city's total population, according to the Census Bureau. Today, the Latin American immigrant population leads at about 32 percent, followed by the Asian population with about 26 percent, which includes more than 350,000 foreign-born Chinese.

In addition to CCNY, Hunter College has also joined the DOE to offer its bilingual certification program. Expectations are tentative in extending these partnerships for the 2014-2015 school year, according to the DOE website, but Fraga remains confident.

"The feedback [on the program] has been very positive from the teachers," said Fraga, who has taught a teaching literacy class for the program's Spanish bilingual teachers. "I think the teachers are generally happy to use their bilingual skills with children and in their schools."

The program director said he looks forward to continuing the program's partnership with the DOE.

(China Daily USA 11/26/2013 page2)