K-State using federal grant to help bolster bilingual learning, teaching in Dodge City
MANHATTAN — The Center for Intercultural and Multilingual Advocacy at Kansas State University and its partners in Dodge City will use a $2.9 million grant to strengthen bilingual education for students at every level in the community.
Project RESPETAME — Reimagining Educational Systems by Practicing Equity and Translanguaging and Accessing Multiliterate Experiences — is a National Professional Development grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of English Language Acquisition. Partners include Dodge City Community College and Dodge City Public Schools.
Socorro Herrera, executive director of the Center for Intercultural and Multilingual Advocacy, said the project is designed to support systemic change for emergent bilingual learners and their peers. The grant provides professional development opportunities for pre-K, elementary and secondary teachers, as well as support for20 bilingual students majoring in elementary education.
Herrera, a professor of curriculum and instruction at K-State's College of Education, is the internationally recognized expert on biography-driven, culturally responsive teaching and primary investigator on the grant. She collaborates with districts to support teacher capacity building and effective partnerships with families and communities.
Debbie Mercer, dean of the College of Education, believes Project RESPETAME will position the Dodge City education system for the future.
"The power of this grant lies in the longstanding and collaborative nature of the relationship between educators in Dodge City and the K-State College of Education," Mercer said. "This grant is somewhat unique in that it is addressing both the immediate needs of the community's bilingual learners and the district's effort to attract more bilingual teachers of color to Dodge City classrooms."
Through Project RESPETAME, pre-K-12 educators will develop increased capacities to foster language and biliteracy/multiliteracy development. Herrera said teachers will receive site-based professional development on culturally responsive practices that maximize the sociocultural, linguistic, cognitive and academic assets of learners and their families. In addition, secondary educators will complete coursework leading to an endorsement in English to speakers of other languages.
Diana Mendoza, Dodge City Public Schools director of English to speakers of other languages and diversity, described the grant as an opportunity to enhance the district's current initiatives and continue building the bridge between core instruction, strategies for teaching English to speakers of other languages, and family engagement.
"The goals of the grant will serve as conduits for providing teachers and staff with the support needed to address the diverse needs of our school community," Mendoza said.
Project RESPETAME also creates an innovative teacher preparation pathway for bilingual students of color who want to remain in Dodge City while earning their bachelor's degree and teach in USD 443 schools. The students will maximize dual credit opportunities in high school before transitioning to Dodge City Community College and then complete their bachelor's degree online through K-State's College of Education.
This program will incorporate youth participatory action research and specialized seminars, advising and field experiences to facilitate the developing teachers' understanding of self, learners and their local community. Upon completion of their degrees, the students will be ready to serve local schools and the next generation of culturally and linguistically diverse learners.
"We are excited about this fantastic opportunity to develop our pipeline of diverse and talented educators," said Martha Mendoza, principal of Dodge City High School. "This grant will allow us to invest in our current teachers and grow our own future teachers by supporting our high school students interested in becoming educators in Dodge City. As an English language learner, I know firsthand the impact teachers had on me when they valued my assets and knew how to support my needs. I am thrilled that this project will provide our district with new opportunities to enhance teachers' capacities for culturally responsive teaching."