UCI minor paves the way for future bilingual teachers

UCI minor paves the way for future bilingual teachers

 Office of the Dean March 23, 2021

Spanish/English bilingual education minor prepares students for careers in bilingual education

With accreditation by the California Commission, the University of California, Irvine will now offer undergraduate and graduate students new pathways to become bilingual K-12 teachers. A collaboration between the School of Humanities and the School of Education, UCI’s minor in Spanish/English bilingual education will now connect with the UCI School of Education’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) + Credential Program in a new and exciting way.

This summer, the MAT + Credential Program will offer a Bilingual Authorization Program (BAP) within its Multiple Subject Credential Program. UCI undergraduates who earn the minor in Spanish/English bilingual education and are admitted into the BAP master’s program can waive a required California Educator Credentialing Assessments exam, the CSET Spanish Subtest V.

Administered by the School of Humanities’ Department of Spanish and Portuguese, the bilingual education minor is the only minor of its kind in the UC system. Launched in the academic year of 2018-2019, the minor responds to an increased demand for dual-language immersion programs, where students learn and are taught in both English and a second language over the course of their K-12 education.

The bilingual education minor provides students with foundational knowledge on issues in bilingual education, hands-on experience in a bilingual classroom, and knowledge of linguistic and cultural phenomena associated with the Spanish language and populations from Latin American countries. Students take a total of six courses taught by faculty within the School of Humanities and School of Education. Currently, 45 undergraduate students – from a broad range of majors including biology, Chinese studies, education sciences, English and mathematics – are enrolled in the minor.

More than half of Orange County’s 28 school districts now offer dual-language immersion programs in their schools, and more than a thousand additional schools across California offer dual immersion programs. This increased demand also means an increased need for bilingual teachers. With the new BAP master’s track, students now have a new pathway into these careers.

“In the last few years, UCI has become a hub for bilingualism studies and research in Southern California,” said Julio Torres, associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese and director of the minor. “We are thrilled that this includes the preparation of future teachers in dual immersion schools who will have gained the knowledge and experience to promote the sustainability and development of a bilingual student population in California.”  

Over the past decade, UCI’s MAT Program has produced more than 100 bilingual teachers, with 17 more pursuing bilingual authorization in the current cohort, a record high. Alumni of this program go on to work in dual immersion schools and to help launch dual immersion programs at their respective schools.

“Having this partnership with the Department of Spanish and Portuguese is invaluable and the minor will now prepare undergraduates for a career that is very much in demand,” said Susan Guilfoyle, School of Education lecturer and BAP Coordinator. “Completing the minor will better prepare students for their dual immersion student teaching experience while in our MAT program or any bilingual teaching program they choose to attend afterward.”

The first graduating class of the Spanish/English bilingual education minor standing on a staircase smiling with Julio Torres

There are currently four alumni of the Spanish/English bilingual education minor in UCI’s MAT program, three of whom were already familiar with their student teaching placement because they completed their 40 hours of undergraduate fieldwork service, as part of the minor’s requirement, at the same dual immersion school, Gates Elementary School in Lake Forest, California. “This provides a seamless transition for our undergraduates and allows them to see firsthand how a dual immersion program functions before they are placed there as student teachers. Some of our master teachers have even requested bilingual education minors for their student teachers when they arrive in our MAT program,” said Guilfoyle.

UCI is federally designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution, which means its undergraduate population is made up of 25% or more Hispanic full-time equivalent students. As of 2020, 25% of UCI’s population identifies as Hispanic, and 33% of the School of Humanities’ undergraduate population identifies as Hispanic. This designation and minor both allow UCI to attract top candidates for the program in bilingual education.

“As a native Spanish speaker, I love learning how students are able to learn and become biliterate in both English and Spanish,” said Alondra Perez, a first-generation student majoring in Spanish and president of the undergraduate club, Bilingual Teacher Student Association. “I decided to minor in Spanish/English bilingual education to further prepare myself with the knowledge and experience needed to become a successful bilingual educator. Thus far, the bilingual education minor has provided me with the resources to not only learn about bilingualism but also the ability to experience tutoring and teaching at a dual immersion classroom.”

School of Humanities Dean Tyrus Miller pointed to the bilingual education minor and the new BAP master’s track as exemplifying the power of collaboration to meet the important needs of the people of California. “In the humanities, we emphasize the importance of language learning and cultural knowledge for our students, who will live in an increasingly diverse society and work in multilingual work environments. Through this partnership with the UCI School of Education, we are equipping our future teachers with skills to help bilingual students in our schools excel and thrive.”

Below, Julio Torres discusses the minor and its importance to the future of bilingual education.

What was the impetus for the creation of the minor in Spanish/English bilingual education?

In November 2016, 61% of Californians voted to revoke a 1998 law that curtailed bilingual education programs in California public schools. This led to a statewide need to have qualified teachers in dual immersion programs. Therefore, a partnership emerged between the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and the School of Education to create a pathway for our undergraduate students who wish to pursue a teaching career in Spanish-English dual immersion programs.  

Why do you think this new minor to master of arts in teaching pathway is important?

We need to begin to prepare students early on, so they have time to develop critical awareness of the dynamics of bilingualism, linguistic ideologies, linguistic and educational inequities in racialized communities as well as curriculum development and assessment. Other key features of the minor are the Spanish coursework that students take as well as hands-on experience in dual immersion classrooms as bilingual aides/tutors. We believe these are foundational for students to become effective and critical bilingual teachers.

Why should students consider a minor in Spanish/English bilingual education?

Given the large linguistically diverse student population in California, especially of Spanish-English bilingual children, we feel that this minor should be considered by anyone wishing to work in educational settings. In the “Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism” course that I teach as a core requirement of the minor, I get students with diverse interests. I have had students interested in becoming speech therapists, teachers of STEM courses, counselors in juvenile detentions, and so on. Students many times share that they did not consider how bilingualism can have an impact in the work they want to do. So, even for students who do not wish to teach in dual immersion programs, the minor can provide them with knowledge and experience to work with bilingual student populations in other settings.

Tell us about your lab and how you approach Spanish-language instruction.

In the AREYTO LAB, I mainly work with undergraduate and graduate students examining issues regarding additional language learning across different contexts and bilingual experiences. And we also look at how the bilingual experience affects people’s lives. My approach to Spanish-language instruction is evidence-based and that one-size does not fit all. Currently, in our Spanish language program, we have been converting our language courses to a blended format to allow for more individualized instruction during asynchronous online days.

Visit here to learn more about the minor in Spanish/English bilingual education.

Visit here to learn more about the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) + Credential Program, Bilingual Authorization Program (BAP)

Photo credits: Susan Guilfoyle