First-Time Event Recognizes 31 Teachers from 28 Schools
WACO, Texas – As the teacher shortage across all subjects continues, Education Service Center Region 12 is stepping forward to recognize teachers from a group at the top of the Texas Teacher Shortage Areas since 1990: bilingual and English as a second language teachers.
Bilingual classes are for students who speak English and at least one other language, and ESL classes are for students who don’t speak English fluently. According to the Texas Education Agency, 19,238 students, or 11% of all students in Region 12 are classified as Emergent Bilingual.
Two education specialists at ESC Region 12 are behind the vision and planning of the banquet. Faith Foster and Amberly Walker lead the Bilingual and ESL Support Program and see firsthand the work bilingual and ESL teachers do across the region with 77 districts and 10 charter schools.
“We see excellence in so many classrooms and want to recognize and celebrate a group that serves a growing number of students,” said Amberly Walker, an education specialist at ESC Region 12. “With morale being low across the board in education, we don’t want to lose people making a difference every day,” Walker said. “We want them to know how important they are and how critical their role is.”
Across Region 12, which spans 12 area counties, bilingual and ESL teachers are spread thin, sometimes filling multiple roles and/or serving as a school’s sole bilingual or ESL teacher. ESC Region 12 will feature the work of these teachers through the first annual Bilingual ESL Support Awards Ceremony, or BESA Ceremony. All Region 12 districts and charter schools receiving Title III funds were invited to attend the banquet. Title III funds are given through the federal government to help English language learners and immigrant students reach English proficiency and meet state academic standards.
Award categories include peer nominations for the Texas Education Agency’s Title III Symposium, team awards and individual awards. Although the TEA Title III Symposium will be held in July, this banquet will recognize all Region 12 nominees to celebrate their accomplishments at a local level, Walker said. For the individual and team awards, Foster and Walker are considering professional development attendance, school performance and projects, and other achievement data as award criteria, she said.
“These teachers invest a lot of time learning and getting better at their craft, and we really want to recognize that,” Walker said. “We talked about how we can let them and the world know the impactful work they’re doing – this event is a step in that direction.”
Foster said the BESA Ceremony will also be a time for bilingual and ESL teachers to connect and learn from each other – creating a professional learning community for ongoing support. She also sees this event as an opportunity to learn what she and Walker can encourage through the year and inform future award criteria and regional director’s meetings.
While this event is a starting point, the two who provide professional development and support in this area have ideas for the future, such as partnering with groups and having a community focus, Walker said. They want to find ways to involve entities like the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Texas Workforce Commission and colleges and universities. They also hope this event is a driving force for schools to begin their own recognition programs for these teachers, she said.
Foster and Walker are excited to see the BESA Ceremony play out and hope it positively impacts teachers and schools, Foster said. They hope people walk away feeling appreciated and inspired to continue pushing forward.