Roosevelt University will graduate 48 dual language teachers on Dec. 13 for growing numbers of Chicago and suburban classrooms where a two-language approach to learning is increasingly being taken.
Most of the graduates who will cross the stage at the Auditorium Theatre for Master’s in Dual Language Teacher Leadership degrees already have landed jobs in classrooms where dual languages, bi-lingual education and/or English as a Second Language are being taught.
“There is a growing need in Illinois and throughout the Midwest for teachers who are qualified in bilingual and dual language education,” said Tom Philion, dean of Roosevelt’s College of Education.
The college became the first in the nation to offer a graduate program in dual language teaching and leadership with help from a $2.4 million professional development grant from the U.S. Department of Education in fall 2017.
Since then, nearly 70 teachers from throughout Chicagoland - including the largest class of 48 graduating on Friday, Dec. 13 - have taken advantage of the state’s only graduate level dual language teacher leadership program.
"We started this program as a way to reduce teacher shortages in the field, particularly in high-need districts where these positions are frequently vacant,” added Philion. “What we’re seeing now, though, with the demographics changing, is that this program is catching on far beyond simply high-need districts,” he said.
Twenty-five of those who will be graduating with master’s degrees in Dual Language Teacher Leadership are part of a Chicago-based group that has been prepared for, and in many cases, will be working in the Chicago Public Schools.
Meanwhile, the program’s graduating Schaumburg-based cohort includes 23 new graduates, many who are going to and/or are already in dual-language classrooms in elementary schools in many Chicago-area suburbs including: Addison, Arlington Heights, Berwyn, Bolingbrook, Des Plaines, Elgin, Elk Grove Village, Gurnee, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Naperville, Rockford, Romeoville, Schaumburg, Westmont and Wood Dale.
“We are not advertising for students, and yet teachers from all over the region – and even the nation – are hearing about and enrolling in the program,” said Tammy Oberg De La Garza, a Roosevelt associate professor of language and literacy who helped establish the new program.
She and others in Roosevelt’s College of Education currently are conducting research as part of the program’s five-year federal grant that will track achievement of dual-language vs. single language learners at both Chicago and suburban elementary schools where the program’s new graduates are teaching.
“So far we are seeing that dual language learners are outperforming single language learners by the time they reach sixth to eighth grades,” said Oberg De La Garza of the ongoing research.
The majority of the program’s new graduates speak English and Spanish. “I am excited and honored to be graduating with this degree,” said Rosa Corona, a teacher who speaks both languages at Calmeca Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago, which has been a dual-language pilot for CPS.
“The Roosevelt program has prepared me to be a better advocate for bi-lingual students and bi-lingual education,” added Corona, who is now completing additional certification at Roosevelt to become a dual-language principal.
Others who are graduating speak English and other languages, including Joanna Pawlina of Elk Grove Village who teaches in the state’s only English and Polish program in Community Consolidated School District 59.
“Every child deserves the right to use more than one language, and what I’ve learned through this program is to be a leader and an advocate for that right,” Pawlina said.
Still others from the program’s largest graduating class don’t speak a second language at all – but are aiming to continue teaching English in classrooms where teaching partners will speak Spanish.
“The degree will allow me to teach the English portion of our program,” said Amy Falcone, an Elk Grove Village resident and 5th grade English teacher in Wood Dale District 7.
Falcone said she was highly motivated to enroll in Roosevelt’s one-of-a-kind dual-language training program after witnessing her own daughter, now in 7th grade, achieve English and Spanish fluency as a result of dual-language lessons since kindergarten.