Shawn Pennell, Raggio Research Center for STEM Education, College of Education, University of Nevada
The Northern Nevada English Learning Initiative (NNELI) is a National Professional Development Grant Program fully funded by the Office of English Language Acquisition of the United States Department of Education. The grant was sought by University of Nevada, Reno, College of Education, Associate Professor of TESOL Rod Case, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, along with Co-Principal Investigators, Jacque Ewing-Taylor, Ph.D., and David Crowther, Ph.D., in consortium with the Washoe County School District. NNELI was funded in May 2012 and continued for five years with a total grant award of $1,935,167.
The NNELI program targeted three groups of educators in order to improve instruction to English language learners: pre-service teachers at UNR and classroom teachers and paraprofessionals in WCSD. This article will focus on the paraprofessionals. Over the span of the five years, 57 paraprofessionals completed the nine-month, nine-module hybrid-online professional development course in order to improve instruction to English language learners. Based on an initial needs assessment of paraprofessionals and their lead teachers and the priorities of the grant, program developers chose to include ten topics. Although they changed over time, the nine modules included the grant priorities- second language acquisition theory and inquiry-based science instruction- as well as topics in technology proficiency; professionalism; cultural competence; district-level programs such as PBIS/SEL, WIDA and GLAD/SIOP; as well as instructional shifts associated with the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
Each module included a face-to-face session at either UNR or at the WCSD Matley Lane Professional Learning Center as well as online tests and content. Each participant maintained a paper or electronic journal and was required to reflect on the course material and how it applied in the classroom context. Assignments included research on the school