Foundation Completes Teachers of English Learners Pilot Project: Resource Now Available Statwide
Nearly 100 Teachers Complete Exam Prep Course
An online professional development platform for Teachers of English Learners created by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has completed its pilot phase and is now open for teachers statewide on the Oklahoma State Department of Education Oklahoma EDGE website at https://osdeconnect.ok.gov.
As part of its Teacher Professional Development programs, the foundation created the Teachers of English Learners Pilot Project to address a critical need for Oklahoma classroom teachers and their English Learners, said Emily Stratton, executive director of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a statewide nonprofit that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in public schools.
“Nearly 60,000 students in Oklahoma’s public schools do not speak English as their first language, presenting a challenge for classroom teachers who often do not have the training or resources to effectively integrate English Learner students into their classroom activities,” Stratton said.
The Teachers of English Learners project uses a collaborative online learning platform to provide professional development, networking and support for classroom teachers in schools with high enrollment of English Learner (EL) students. The project was developed by advisory and content committees made up of Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence trustees and English Learner specialists from school districts and colleges. In addition, six English-as-a-Second-Language certified teachers served as virtual facilitators for the pilot project to answer questions and provide resources for participants.
“Our ultimate goal was to provide an anytime, anyplace professional learning hub for classroom teachers committed to improving instruction for their English Learners,” said Project Manager Lisa Pryor. “This goal was accomplished through the curation of high-quality content and the ability for teachers to share information and network organically.”
When the foundation launched the platform in February 2020, the program was available to educators in 17 schools with approximately 360 registered teachers. Today, more than 800 Oklahoma educators from 95 districts have utilized the online platform, thanks to the additions of an ESL Certification Prep Course, a webinar series and opportunities to network with other English Learner teachers.
“The project has provided a platform to unite English Learner teachers who desire collaboration with others working in our subject area,” said Payne County EL teacher Anastasia Mendoza. “Many EL teachers are the only one in their school or district. The online project has given teachers from across the state a common place to collaborate, build relationships and learn from each other.”
Last September, facilitators added the free ESL Certification Prep Course created by veteran ESL teachers Ellen Kraft and Marcie Levy of Norman. The course readings, videos, activities, and quizzes are tied to six state standards and keyed to 14 competencies addressed in the state certification exam. To date, 98 Oklahoma educators have completed the prep course and are working their way towards achieving state ESL certification. The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has awarded $80 exam fee vouchers to teachers who completed the course and will continue to award vouchers – on a first-come basis – for those who complete the prep course by Sept. 15.
Organizers are hopeful that the number of teachers will increase exponentially with the new statewide access to the program. “We are particularly pleased that the Oklahoma State Department of Education is taking on the operations of continuing and expanding these supports to Oklahoma educators,” Pryor said. “We expect that this will translate to improved instruction for English Learners in classrooms across the state.”
The Teachers of English Learners project was managed by EDUTAS at the University of Oklahoma Outreach/College of Continuing Education. The online learning technology was developed by NextThought, an Oklahoma company that specializes in online professional development and community networking.
Project sponsors are the Sarkeys Foundation, BancFirst, The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation, Home Creations, Gene Rainbolt, Bar S Foods, Cherokee Strip Community Foundation, Dillingham Foundation, The Joullian Foundation, the Office of Education Quality and Accountability, ARVEST Bank of Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Lopez Foods, Kirk and Sue Morris, Junior Welfare Leagues of Enid, Stephen and Sherrel Jones, Central Machine and Tool LLC, Dick Sias, Lisa Pryor, Oklahoma Bank & Trust Co., Cheryl & GW Lowry Jr., and Dick Ebrey.