Trends in Teaching: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

ThinkstockPhotos-495808756Projections indicate that by 2020, 1 in 4 students in U.S. classrooms will be non-native English speakers. In fact, the population of English Language Learner (ELLs – a student whose primary language is not English) is growing by 10% annually, making these students one of the fastest growing populations in education. Because of this rapid growth, and the unique challenges facing these students, demand for teachers who are equipped with the skills to teach these students is greater now than ever before.

Recently, reported graduation rates reveal a shocking truth; over a five year period from 2006 to 2010, the percentage of ELLs who graduated from NYS public high schools steadily decreased from 40.3% in 2006 to 31.2% in 2010. Compared to 76.4% of all other students attending public high schools in NYS who graduated in 2010, the abysmal graduation rate for ELLs in the same year raised a red flag for English as a Second Language (ESL) educators.
ELLs Graduation Rates

The New York State Board of Regents has responded to these issues, approving changes to the legal requirements for educating ELLs in New York State. These amendments were adopted in September of 2014, and constitute the first updates of this kind in 30 years. The modifications respond to the growing multilingual population and were designed to strengthen identification and placement procedures as well as support services for ELLs, improve transparency and communication between school districts and parents of ELLs, and increase emphasis on professional development related to Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL).

In addition to these amendments, the updates also call for a decrease in class size for ESL instruction and an increase in qualified personnel in these classrooms. When the amendments formally took effect at the start of the 2015-2016 school year, we immediately noticed the growing demand for ESL teachers in light of these new regulations. Candidates in our TESOL programs were landing jobs even before they had graduated…and this trend has continued! In fact, a special report by New York State School Boards Association Department of Legal & Policy Services has predicted that school districts will need to quickly initiate recruitment efforts for additional staff in this area and these efforts may be impeded by the limited number of teachers qualified to work with ELLs.

According to the NY State Board of Regents, only 500 initial TESOL certificates were granted to teacher candidates in the 2013-2014 academic year. This is particularly problematic because low numbers of certified teachers threaten the quality of education for ELLs, leading to the subpar graduation rates we are seeing. However, on the bright side, the shortage also means that jobs for teachers with TESOL degrees are readily available. Niagara University’s undergraduate and graduate degrees in TESOL prepare students to succeed as effective ESL instructors and meet the needs of English Language Learners.
ELLs public schools
Percentage of public school students who are English language learners, by state: School year 2012–13
Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), “Local Education Agency Universe Survey,” 2012–13. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 204.20.

Our TESOL graduates are well-prepared to take advantage of teaching opportunities at the state, national, and international levels. Students who teach English abroad have the chance to explore new cultures and learn about the different values and attitudes of people all over the world. One of our faculty members, Dr. Michael Smith, an associate professor of education, has been developing an international network for NU students, establishing student-teaching placements in Bankok, Thailand and maintaining partnerships with schools and universities in Australia, China, Japan, and Southeast Asia. Students who have taught in Thailand refer to the experience as “life changing” (to read more about Dr. Smith’s work and his students’ experiences abroad, check out his recent blog post here).

While teaching English abroad may appeal more to the adventurous sort, all individuals interested in careers in TESOL will engage in rich multicultural experiences, whether across the globe or in a school in their own neighborhood. Social integration and language acquisition for K-12 students is a multidimensional and often intimidating process, and accordingly, ELL’s often feel self-conscious and may experience confusion and frustration in school and in the community. Identifying and addressing these unique needs of diverse ELL’s and understanding the countless social and cultural factors impacting language comprehension and academic success are integral to the work ESL teachers do; they are both educators and advocates for their students. In fact, an ESL teacher’s capacity for empathy is among the most valuable qualities we should look for if we are hoping to impact student engagement and success.

Initially, many will dismiss the idea of becoming an ESL teacher as they fear what they believe to be the prerequisite language and/or cultural abilities one must have to pursue certification in this field. One of the common misconceptions is that those interested in pursuing the degree must be bilingual or that teacher candidates must become fluent in one or more other languages. However, this is not the case – TESOL teachers will become experts in facilitating students’ acquisition of English language and cultural skills; they are not required to be fluent in the any of the different languages students may speak.

While there is no fluency requirement for TESOL programs, New York state requires that TESOL teachers complete 12 credit hours (4 courses) of study in languages other than English in order to acquire an authentic understanding of linguistics and the ways in which we acquire languages, to become more familiar with diverse cultures, and to better understand the considerations for teaching ELLs. TESOL candidates are able to select from language courses as diverse and wide-ranging as the students they will soon be teaching; a four-course study of one language in particular is not required, students can take one or more courses in a variety of languages. This is reflective of the diversity in schools today.  In fact, New York State public schools alone serve over 200,000 English Language Learners who speak over 160 languages.


NU offers several options for TESOL preparation, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Our programs prepare teacher candidates to effectively teach English to speakers of other languages locally, nationally, and abroad. At the undergraduate level, students can choose to study TESOL and childhood education (grades 1-6) or TESOL and adolescent education (grades 7-12, subject-specific). Graduate students who currently hold teacher certification in NYS can apply for our 37-credit hour master’s degree program, while those seeking initial teaching certification are eligible to apply for our 46-credit hour master’s degree program. Practicing teachers who wish to extend their certification to TESOL can enroll in an 18-credit hour program leading to a Certificate of Advanced Studies in TESOL. With all of these options and a clear indication that jobs for ESL teachers are on the rise, why not choose TESOL?

Myth Busting: #NUTeachersGetJobs

mythsIn recent years—especially as a result of the “Great Recession” of 2007-2009 — the national myth attached to the teaching profession is that there are no jobs for teachers. We’ve all heard the tales of defeat from individuals who have given up their dreams of becoming educators because of the challenging job market.

It’s time to bust that myth! When we take a look at employment statistics, we find exciting news.  Recent projections regarding teaching positions are positive. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment for high school teachers to increase 6% by 2022, while employment for elementary and middle school teachers will both grow 12% during this same time period. The student-to-teacher ratio is also expected to decline resulting in an increased demand for both elementary and secondary teachers. International trends in job outlook for teachers reflect an even greater need for teachers on the global level. Evidence of “growth” and “increase” in reports regarding job prospects for teachers should change our beliefs about how practical it is to pursue a teaching degree.

elementary teachers middle school teachers

So you might ask, though teacher education graduates might be able to find jobs throughout the country or internationally, will Niagara University graduates be able to secure positions in the local community and throughout New York State’s competitive job market? Again, let’s consult the statistics. Statewide, both elementary and secondary school teachers are among the top 25 occupations with the largest number of annual openings projected by 2016, according to the New York State Department of Labor. Reflecting the national trends, NYS projects a 7% employment increase for those in educational services by 2022.

Of course, statistics do not guarantee that every teacher candidate will secure a job teaching around the corner. But, the College of Education programs at NU have a long history of preparing future teachers who stand out during the job search and consequently, obtain and succeed in their desired positions. Our graduates have proven that success is attainable—in NYS and beyond. The College of Education conducts a survey of graduates one year after leaving NU and we are pleased to report that more than 90% of our program completers are working full time in the profession.  The other 10% may be among the 70% of our recent undergraduates who have continued their education at the master’s level.

Our recent graduates have secured teaching positions at the state, national, and international levels. Most recently, Niagara grads are finding success in states such as Arizona, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina and countries such as South Korea and Guam. Many recent graduates have found employment this fall in New York.  We are pleased that they are now working in local districts such as Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda, Rush-Henrietta, Clarence Central, Wilson Central, North Tonawanda, Penfield Central, and Greece Central, among others.

As we know, job prospects are on the rise, and we are experiencing an increasing need for teachers at every level.  Perhaps now, the reigning myth that “there just are no teaching jobs available,” will give way to the understanding that well-prepared teachers who are effective in the classroom will and do get jobs.

The College of Education would like to congratulate the following NU graduates who have very recently been hired or promoted within school districts locally, nationally, and throughout the world.

Joshua Prieur (’08)—Dean (Teacher on Special Assignment), Boca Raton Community High School
Marissa Felser (’12) –English as a New Language Teacher in Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District
Rebecca Oliver (’13)—Special Education Consultant Teacher in Rush-Henrietta School District
Bridget McDonnell (’13)—Fifth Grade Teacher at St. Mark School in Buffalo, NY
Monica Ecker (’15)—Third Grade Teacher in Clarence Central School District
Kassandra Grys (’15)—High School Math Teacher in Wilson Central School District
Sabrina Rotello (’15)—Pre-School Teacher in North Tonawanda
Catherine Gibbons (’14)—Middle and High School Math Teacher at St. Mary’s School for the Deaf in Buffalo, NY
Allison Radley (’14)—High School English Teacher in Penfield Central School District
Michelle Brannan (’13)—Seventh Grade Special Education Math Teacher at Colonial Heights Public Schools in Virginia
Jessica Lemke (’11)—Kindergarten teacher at Tapestry Charter School in Buffalo, NY
Hannah Ranney (’12)—High School Teacher at Henrietta F Lewis Campus School on the Wyndham Lawn Campus in Lockport, NY
Alyssa Polito (’13)—High School Math Teacher at Greece Olympia High School in Rochester, NY
Michelle Brutus (’14)—High School English Inclusion Teacher in Memphis, Tennessee
Gretchen Schwarzmueller (’15)—Teacher in Keshequa Central School District
Stephen Labanowich (’13)—Teacher in South Korea
Morgaine Enfiejan-Stewart (’13, ’15)—Teacher for Guam Department of Education
Kelsey McGinty (’13)—Teacher in the Orthopedic Disabilities classroom at Southside Middle School in Florence, South Carolina
Kelly Hoak
(’15)—High School Geometry teacher at Sweet Home High School in Amherst, NY

gmail logoWe in the College of Education would like to celebrate the accomplishments of our recent graduates who are excelling in positions locally and around the world.  We hope that you will keep in contact with us so that we might place a tack with your name on it on our world or local maps.  Please email us at and let us know what you are doing.

So, Now I Blog?!

Foote FamilyOn August 17, 2015 I began my first official day as the Interim Dean of the College of Education at Niagara University.  Having been at NU for almost 20 years serving as assistant, associate, and full professor, program coordinator, accreditation coordinator, edTPA coordinator, department chair, and associate dean, one might think I had been following a well-thought out plan toward a leadership position in higher education.  One would be wrong.

Being a dean is not something I had planned for when I began my career as a faculty member.  In fact, it wasn’t something I was considering even a few months ago. Each time I took on a new role in the College of Education, I was simply agreeing to help out for a while. As the late, great Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” Well, here I am.

Planned or not, I am very excited to be serving as the Interim Dean.  I am fortunate that our former dean, Dr. Debra Colley, is still available on campus and the University is benefiting from her vast experience as she moves into her new role as our Executive Vice President.  I am also blessed to be surrounded by outstanding faculty and staff.  With diverse experiences and scholarly pursuits, our faculty help to bring education, counseling, and leadership to life in our undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs, while our administrative staff support candidates from application to graduation, certification, and employment.

As a new administrator, I’m being given advice at every turn.  Logan Pearsall Smith said, “It takes a great man to give sound advice tactfully, but a greater to accept it graciously.”  I’m not a man and I certainly wouldn’t put myself in the “greater” category, but I am learning to accept advice graciously.  One piece of advice I’ve received from multiple sources is that I need to take advantage of social media.  Evidently, I need to network and blog and tweet. So today I woke up having never blogged, and by the time I go to sleep tonight I can say that I “have a blog” and I’m LinkedIn with 221 people (I’m pretty sure that’s not good but hopefully my blog will bring me more connections). Maybe tomorrow I will learn to tweet.

I hope to use this blog to serve as a voice on issues that clearly connect with the programs and professions served by the College of Education at Niagara University.  As a certified New York state teacher myself, and a daughter, niece, wife, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, cousin, and granddaughter of New York state teachers, you can be sure that I will be blogging about the issues teachers face on a regular basis.  As a mother of two boys (ages 9 and 10), I can promise that I will be sharing my thoughts on child development. As the new dean of programs housed in downtown Toronto, which require approval by the Ontario Ministry of Education and the Ontario College of Teachers, I hope to share some international insights into the preparation and professional development of teachers and educational leaders across our shared borders.  I also hope to highlight the concerns of school and clinical mental health counselors, school psychologists, and leaders in all disciplines as they are addressed in our advanced programs here on campus.

So…thank you to those of you who have read my first blog post, and to those who suggested that I swim deeper in the social media pool.  I hope/promise to be more inspiring next time.  Until then, you can feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn at Chandra Foote, or you can visit our NU College of Education and Human Services Facebook page.

Teacher Appreciation Week

By Dr. Debra Colley

“A teacher affects eternity; he [she]can never tell where his [her] influence stops.”
-Henry Adams-

We should not need a week to talk about the honor and privilege of being a teacher – we should not need a week to remind our community to “thank-a-teacher”,  but given the climate in education,  I think we do.  This week is Teacher Appreciation Week.   I have spent years in the education field working with teachers and professors who dedicate their lives to children,  youth and their families –  wouldn’t it be wonderful if the appreciation for teachers was evident in the talking points we hear at our dinner tables,  our jobs,  in the media,  and in political circles every week.  After all, most of us are where we are because of the influence and great wisdom of a teacher along the way!

May 4th-8th is a time, celebrated once a year, where we can show teachers our appreciation for their commitment to children and youth.   Since 1984, the National PTA has been honoring women and men who dedicate their careers and themselves to educating children and youth.  This week,  I propose that we all join their efforts.

Education is complicated – no doubt.  Education is challenging – for sure.  Education is changing – good thing.  But education, led by remarkable teachers, is the path to success ….in our community,  in our family,  in our career, and in our world.   We may never know the impact of a teacher on our lives and the lives of our children, but we do know the professional knowledge and skill they bring into our classrooms.  We do know the dedication they have to ALL children – and their belief that all children can learn and succeed.   We do know their commitment to on-going professional learning and at Niagara,  we know their commitment to service, especially for those most in need.   We count on our teachers every day – no matter what.

So join me in celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week and thank your teachers and your professors.   Rally around the teaching profession as we need the very best teachers now and in the future.  Think about teaching as it is perhaps the most rewarding and influential of all – and it comes in all types of positions from the classroom,  to the university,  to the corporate training office and beyond.


A Need for Counseling

NSCWBy Dr. Debra Colley

National School Counselor’s Week was celebrated in February.   As I reflect upon the events which mark this profession, I pause to think about the incredibly meaningful role that school counselors play in the lives of many young people across our country.

According to the American Counseling Association,  “Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education and career goals.”  Students today are dealing with more challenges than ever before, thus the school counselors work becomes even more important.  A school counselor’s role is not simply to give advice or schedule classes; it is to support students in making responsible and empowering decisions at significant stages in their lives.  School counselors work with students, their families, faculty, staff, and school leaders to ensure personal and academic success for their students.  They play a lead role in advocacy, but also in building confidence and expectation for success in obtaining goals for college,  for a successful career,  for meaningful employment.  In our own lives,  we remember school counselors who gave us the “can do” attitude and path to success …. who encouraged us to reach high and make it happen.

Recently, the need for school counselors in elementary schools has been emphasized across New York State; laying the foundation for the work counselors do in middle and high schools.  According to the US Department of Labor, school counseling jobs are expected to increase by 7% in New York State, and 12% nationally.  The Department of Labor also establishes that, on average, counselors in New York have a higher salary than counselors in most other states.  Given the increasing need for highly trained and skillful counselors in our K-12 schools,  it is important that our newest counselors are well prepared for their role in transforming the lives of children and youth and in working in partnership with teachers and families to enhance success.   It is imperative that new counselors are vested in the future needs of the workforce as 21st century careers and the respective areas of study have changed and will continue to evolve.

I am pleased that our faculty and school counseling students took time to celebrate National School Counseling week and to reflect on their commitment to serving all students, their role in the schools and partnerships in the community,  and their knowledge of both theory and application to real world expectations for college and career readiness.  The impact which school counselors graduating from Niagara University can make in the lives of young people knows no bounds.

Snow in November

snowBy Dr. Debra Colley

Yes, in the midst of the chaos of the November snow storm,  this Dean went outside to make snow angels!  Periodically, we are reminded that our very best plans and task lists will unexpectedly change and that there are some things in life over which we have very little,  if any,  control.  Six to seven feet of snow on a Tuesday will do that to a person.   Our ability to navigate unforeseen circumstances,  chaos,  and change is an important attribute – whether these are small circumstances or those which seem overwhelming at the time.

As the semester begins to wind down and the anticipation of the holiday begins,  take time to stop for a moment – to make snow angels – to navigate the moments over which we have no control and think about the things in life which are most important of all.  Perhaps the snow storm in November was this reminder for many of us.

Celebrating Language Learning and Academics

By Dr. Debra Colley

As we think about understanding and respecting others,  we know that we must understand and respect ourselves first.  Our individual experiences, informed by language and cultural heritage, shape our development and learning, our academic and social interactions, our goals and interests, and our self-esteem and confidence. Thus, as our classrooms become more culturally and linguistically diverse, educators must recognize language and culture as core strengths for learning and for the development of self-awareness and self-esteem in students. Education today requires much more than providing students with academic preparation. The school experience should be a perpetually enriching process of ongoing growth, personally and intellectually, taking into consideration the context of our society where diversity, progress, and change are fundamental.

InternationalSchool45BuffaloNYThe International School #45, in the Buffalo Public School District, is dedicated to implementing these practices as part of its faculty and administrator’s commitment to helping each student reach his or her potential.   Niagara University’s College of Education was honored to recognize the Buffalo Public School’s International School at its Annual Professional Recognition Dinner.

The 780 students at the International School #45 represent over 70 countries and 30 languages.  The school’s mission supports a global, multicultural perspective that fosters understanding and acceptance of diversity, high academic achievement and social responsibility. The dedicated leaders, teachers, and staff provide explicit, differentiated instruction, using research-based programs that align with the district’s academic plan.

The College of Education commended School #45 on its most recent designation as a “School in Good Standing” by the New York State Education Department.  As the Dean of the College of Education, I am honored that we are partners with a school doing meaningful work in this way. We have the unique opportunity to work within the school building itself to prepare teachers in addressing the complex needs of English language learning students.  The university-school-community partnership has been an integral component in this turnaround and the enhanced achievement of the students in School #45 – this type of impact on student learning is the most important work of a university’s school of education.

Niagara University’s College of Education is proud to applaud the commitment of the International School #45 in serving all students and bringing forth a global understanding while raising academic achievement and college and career readiness for all.