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’s PBIS plan and a written plan on how the paraprofessional would support PBIS in three areas of the school. Another assignment was to write an inquiry-based lesson plan. Once that plan was completed, the paraprofessional added differentiations for WIDA levels, and then, in the final lesson plan, added SIOP components and GLAD strategies. Although the lesson plans were by far the most difficult assignments across all four years, they were also lauded as a major accomplishment when written about in final reflections. Paraprofessionals learned persistence and resilience as they walked the path of every educator in teacher preparation programs- how to apply the Academic Content Standards in a teachable, engaging lesson. Additional work included self-directed learning modules through SkillPort on the topics of technology, decision making, and communication.
A favorite quote from the class is: “This was a very good class and I am thankful, even though I tried to quit many times.”
Course completers are as follows:
|Daisy Frye||2013-2014 working toward a degree|
|Londy Hidalgo||2013-2014 non-completer, but became a teacher|
|Rosa Elena Mamani||2013-2014|
|Angelica Morales||2014-2015 Graduated in HDFS and working on teaching degree|
|Maria Guadalupe Des Jardin||2014-2015 Close to becoming a licensed teacher in NV|
|Erika Aylesbury||2015-2016 Teacher through ARL|
|Martha (Lucy) Acevedo||2015-2016|
|Milly Corneil||2015-2016 Bilingual & investigating a teaching degree|
|Laura Rodriguez Roman||2016-2017|