College of Education's Center for Urban Education receives prestigious AACTE and Southern Poverty Law Center award

Fort Worth, Texas | February 7, 2012 04:24 PM | Print this story

Walking down the hallway of the International Newcomer Academy, Dr. Cecilia Silva always notices her students’ eyes widen.


The Fort Worth school serves first- and second-year immigrants and refugees, who spend one to two years receiving intensive English as a Second Language instruction. In any given year, more than 20 languages are spoken at the school.


TCU students spend hours at the school receiving hands-on field training, developing curriculum and lesson plans and learning about the challenges the students face.


“Many of the students have not really conceptualized the setting until they step into the school,” said Silva, TCU professor of education. “They are taken aback, but they adjust very quickly and begin gaining valuable experience.”


Such work helped TCU’s Center for Urban Education win the prestigious Exemplary Culturally Responsive Teacher Preparation award from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) and the Southern Poverty Law Center.


The award recognizes universities that best prepare future teachers for the challenges of working in diverse settings. TCU won second place, tying with Ball State University. First place went to Portland State University.


TCU professors said they were honored by the recognition.


“For a program as small as ours to receive this award is really incredible,” said Dr. Jan Lacina, associate professor of education and associate dean of Graduate Studies. “We were thrilled.”


Six years ago, TCU’s College of Education decided to revamp its English program to better meet the growing diversity of North Texas and beyond. Silva and Lacina wanted to prepare future teachers to work with students of all levels, from English-language learners to those with a high proficiency.


“Today’s teacher may have two periods of honors English, followed by three periods of English as a Second Language courses,” Lacina said. “They need to be prepared for anything and everything.”


Working with the Fort Worth school district, all students in the program receive preparation in English as a Second Language instruction and cultural responsiveness.


For example:


· TCU students work at Rosemont 6th Grade Center, providing additional instruction for students who are struggling with reading and writing. Professors are on hand to mentor the TCU students and provide feedback, which is crucial for future teachers.


· TCU sponsors a writing camp for Paschal High School students who are at risk of failing state-mandated tests. Each year, about 150 students spend a week at TCU receiving additional help in reading, writing and literature.


· In a partnership with Catholic Charities, TCU students work with the International Newcomer Academy to learn about the challenges facing immigrants and refugees, such as transportation and language issues.


Gilbert Chacon, who graduated from TCU in 2009, said the instruction he received helped him decide to teach at Paschal High School, where he works with students in honors and Advanced Placement courses, as well as students struggling to learn English.


“Before I set foot in my own classroom, I had spent many, many hours observing and doing field work in schools, writing lessons plans, building a rapport with students,” Chacon said. “I felt very prepared from day one.”


Sara Barnebee, a 2010 TCU graduate, now teaches ESL to 6th graders at the International Newcomer Academy. Her education allowed for a seamless transition to her teaching career, she said.


“There were no surprises. I knew what to expect,” Barnebee said. “Our professors were dedicated to making sure that when we graduated, we would be fully prepared to go into the classroom and teach students from all different populations.”


TCU received $4,000 for the award, which it will use to continue programs such as the writing camp for Paschal High School students.


“We are preparing our students to enter any school system and be successful,” Silva said. “To receive this sort of national recognition for what we are doing is incredible.”