May 18, 2005
East Valley teachers have begun the most extensive, state-mandated training to hit classrooms in the last two decades focusing on instructional techniques that target students learning English.
The Arizona Department of Education gave teachers an August 2006 deadline to complete 15 hours of instruction to retain their certification.
The requirement — the first in the nation — will increase until a third of their recertification requirements, due every six years, are in structured English immersion, a practice that teaches English learners in mainstream classrooms.
This school year, East Valley school districts have been training teachers who will in turn train thousands of teachers in their districts how to use visuals, student groups and hands-on activities to engage the entire class, including English learners.
The training will help teachers prepare students with new vocabulary before lessons and teach them to use pictures to translate English, according to Beth King, English learners coordinator for the Gilbert Unified School District.
"They may know how to teach vocabulary, but sometimes they forget that ELL students are not familiar with basic vocabulary," said Irene Frklich, director of the English Language Acquisition department in the Mesa Unified School District. "Whether it is a student from Russia, Japan, Mexico . . . they need to link the student’s background between what is in the book and the classroom to something that he can relate to that would make that connection."
Almost 9,000 of Mesa’s 74,000 students are learning English, Frklich said.
"All you’ve done is taken a few extra minutes to reteach something so that they have comprehension," said Joan Brinton, a second-grade teacher at Boulder Creek Elementary School in Gilbert.
Mary Whitney, a business partner with SEI Solutions, a company training some of Gilbert’s teachers, added, "If you had something to share, but if you didn’t have the tools to share it, like speech, that could be a very frustrating situation."
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said the mandate will help unify teachers’ instruction methods.