Building a Better Bilingual Classroom

Building a Better Bilingual Classroom

Georgina started elementary school in Artesia, California, as a shy Spanish-speaking third-grader. But as she progressed through the school's dual-language immersion program, teacher Martha Alba-Gonzalez saw a change.bilingual teacher qualification

"As she maintained her native language and learned English as a second language, you could see her confidence increase," says Alba-Gonzalez, who completed her undergraduate and teaching credential at California State University, Long Beach.

Later, as a fifth-grader performing in the school's talent show, Georgina was the only student who danced and sang in Spanish. "It was refreshing to see she was confident enough to express herself creatively in her native language, yet she was successfully learning a second language," says Alba-Gonzalez.

By the time she graduated from high school, Georgina was both bilingual and biliterate in English and Spanish. She went on to earn a bilingual teaching credential from CSU Long Beach and now teaches in an elementary school dual-language immersion program like the one where she began her own education.Every one of California's 1.4 million P-12 English-language learner (EL or ELL) children must travel a road something like Georgina's in order to achieve academic success. How well they do depends a lot on the guidance of skilled teachers. Given that the California State University prepares more than half of the state's teachers, CSU schools of education play a critical role in equipping California's educators with the expertise they need to help their EL students.

"Teachers from the CSU's credentialing programs are better equipped today to meet the needs of English learners because there are more known strategies and better research on how to service ELs, and programs are looking to enhance their offerings," explains Fred Uy, Ph.D., director of Educator Preparation and Public School Programs at the CSU Office of the Chancellor.

All CSU teacher credential programs prepare candidates in what's called Cross-cultural Language and Academic Development (CLAD). But in order for a teacher to instruct in a bilingual or dual-language immersion classroom, he or she must be proficient in both English and the non-English language they will be teaching.

What's more, they must obtain a bilingual authorization — called B-CLAD — which can be earned by examination or by completing a bilingual program approved by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Currently 18 CSU campuses, representing a combined 13 different languages from Spanish to Armenian, offer bilingual teacher certification program, including San Diego State University, which has a dedicated department for its bilingual credential program, where it offers six different languages for primary instruction.

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