A $1.5 million grant from the United States Department of Education will bolster Hamline School of Education’s
already impressive work to train all teachers to work with English learners. During the next five years, the grant will fund the English Learners in the Mainstream (ELM) Project. This initiative will provide education for 225 teacher-trainers who will then bring best practices in teaching English as a second language
(ESL) to thousands of in-service teachers in some of Minnesota’s largest school districts, as well as area charter schools and schools in the Twin Cities Archdiocese. In addition, the grant will pay for the tuition and books of 500 Hamline University pre-service teachers to take a course to help them prepare to work with English learners.
“Minnesota ranks first in the nation for secondary refugee resettlement. This means that our newest arrivals overwhelmingly choose to relocate to Minnesota after arriving in another state. The result of this sizable secondary migration is that Minnesota has the highest number of refugees per capita in the nation,” said Michelle Benegas, assistant professor in the School of Education’s Second Language Teaching and Learning Program. “Given the significant number of immigrant and refugee learners in our schools, we need to make sure that all Minnesota teachers are well-prepared to provide them with the best education possible.”
School of Education faculty members Michelle Benegas and Ann Mabbott wrote the grant, in part, because of newly passed Minnesota legislation called the Minnesota LEAPS Act that mandates that all teachers be trained to work with students learning English as a second language. For the next five years, the grant will fully fund tuition and books for a course entitled "English Learners in the Mainstream (ELM)," which is now required of all students who seek to earn their teaching license at Hamline.
“This important grant really helps Hamline continue its long history of being at the forefront of teacher training in the state of Minnesota,” Hamline President Fayneese Miller said. “It was Hamline faculty who developed the very first English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher licensure requirements in the state in early 1980s, and Hamline currently licenses more ESL teachers than any other institution in the state. It’s really a testament to our tradition of, and dedication to, innovative, diverse, and inclusive education.”
The ELM Project grant application from Hamline received letters of support from Representative Betty McCollum, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Senator Patricia Torres Ray, and Representative Carlos Mariani. It was part of $22 million in grants given out by the United States Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition. Benegas and Mabbot plan to co-develop the project curriculum with the Minnesota Department of Education and local teacher experts in the field.
“The Minnesota LEAPS Act is the most comprehensive piece of ESL legislation in the country and we’re so lucky to have it here,” Professor and ESL faculty program coordinator Ann Mabbott said. ”Our grant is a response to the provisions of that legislation so that all mainstream teachers, and not just ESL teachers, are prepared to meet the linguistic and cultural needs of English learners.
Mabbott and Benegas say while they know they’ll be working with 225 teacher-trainers who will go on to work with thousands of teachers in their districts, it’s hard to quantify the number of students who will be affected by this grant. As a part of the grant, they will also develop an online platform to reach out to and train rural teachers in order to increase the reach of this work.