Grant from U.S. Department of Education helps address shortage of English as a Second Language teachers

Grant from U.S. Department of Education helps address shortage of English as a Second Language teachers

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – As part of a grant of almost $1.5 million awarded to the University of Northern Iowa’s Department of Languages & Literatures, a new cohort of 15 graduate students have begun working toward their English as a Second Language (ESL) endorsement or master of arts in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). Ultimately, this grant benefits Iowa’s burgeoning population of ESL students who are in desperate need of teachers who can meet their unique needs. 

UNI faculty, Carmen Durham and Aliza Fones, are the co-directors carrying out Project UNITED (University of Northern Iowa Teacher Education for Diverse Learners), a five-year plan to address a shortage of teachers prepared to teach ESL. Durham and Fones are collaborating with UNI faculty Elise DuBord and Elizabeth Zwanziger, Central Rivers Area Education Agency representative Lisa Wymore, University of Iowa’s Liz Hollingworth, and project staff Dawn Larsen and Shelby Miller. 

The initial cohort of scholarship recipients come from throughout Iowa, and many currently teach in underserved districts where there are a substantial number of English language learner students:

  • Kara Backes, Jesup
  • Abbie Emhoff, West Fork 
  • Trisha Dobson, East Marshall 
  • Katelyn Gettle, South Tama 
  • Tobi Isbell, Waukee
  • Ryan Koch, Perry
  • Kacy Lee, Waverly 
  • Melissa Lindaman, North Butler 
  • Miranda Lockwood, Waterloo
  • Jill Mielke, Graettinger-Terrill 
  • Tracey Mitchell, Ottumwa 
  • Tara Myers, Ankeny
  • Dulce Orozco, Waterloo
  • Ashlie Rifkin, Storm Lake 
  • Ashley Steven, South Tama

“Creating a more equitable and just society involves equipping teachers with the knowledge they need to support the growing diversity of students in Iowa's schools,” said Aliza Fones, assistant professor of TESOL/applied linguistics and one of the co-directors for the grant. “This new cohort of participants in Project UNITED are part of a growing number of educators and future-educators who will be prepared through UNI's TESOL programs to teach English learners.”

The grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition. Scholarship funding that covers the tuition costs of the ESL endorsement for teachers is just one part of the grant. 

In years two through five of the grant, additional students, both undergraduate and graduate, will be eligible for similar scholarships, and the project will also develop innovative curriculum to address the changing educational needs in districts throughout Iowa.