State university officials hope to attract dozens of new bilingual teachers and help future teachers overcome language barriers, with the help of federal grants announced this week.
The U.S. Department of Education has approved three grants, totaling nearly $700,000, for increasing bilingual education training in New Mexico.
Lupe Castillo, of the State Department of Education’s bilingual education office, said the added training is sorely needed.
Currently, she said, more than 20 percent of the state’s bilingual education teachers are not certified to teach in languages other than English. They have received waivers that allow them to teach temporarily while they seek certification.
A grant of $246,641 will be used by Eastern New Mexico University to help teachers and teacher aides upgrade their skills to obtain bilingual certification.
The University of New Mexico will receive two grants totaling roughly $450,000.
At UNM, about half of the money will be used on scholarships and other incentives aimed at enticing future teachers to consider entering bilingual education.
The other half of the money will aid programs that help all future teachers deal with language barriers, according to UNM. Future science teachers, for example, will be taught how to modify their instruction for students whose native language is not English.
Leroy Ortiz, who heads bilingual programs for the UNM Department of Education, said too few teachers in Albuquerque are trained to deal with language deficiencies.
In 1995, the federal government determined Albuquerque Public Schools was not meeting the needs of students with limited English skills. As a result, the district was ordered to offer additional training for teachers.
Ortiz said the APS problem stems from the situation at UNM: The university has not been providing enough bilingual training to teachers entering the profession, according to Ortiz.