UCI News

Boosting the number of bilingual teachers

Newly accredited UCI program will help meet increasing demand for K-12 dual language immersion instructors

by Christine Byrd, UCI | May 24, 2021
Boosting the number of bilingual teachers
Julio Torres (center), UCI associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese, directs the undergraduate Spanish/English bilingual education minor, a collaboration between the School of Humanities and the School of Education. A state-accredited Bilingual Authorization Program launching this summer as part of the Master of Arts in Teaching + Credential Program will make it easier for students who complete this minor to become teachers in dual language immersion classes. Susan Guilfoyle / UCI

At least 30 local K-12 schools, plus more than 1,000 others across California, offer dual language immersion programs – and demand keeps growing. Now, a collaboration between UCI’s School of Education and School of Humanities will help meet the increasing need for well-trained and qualified bilingual education teachers in Orange County and beyond.

Beginning this summer, the School of Education’s Master of Arts in Teaching + Credential Program will offer a Spanish Bilingual Authorization Program option, accredited by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Moreover, the program provides a direct pathway for undergraduates pursuing the Spanish/English bilingual education minor offered by the School of Humanities. Students who complete the minor and then enroll in the BAP will be eligible to waive one of the state credential tests required to become a bilingual teacher.

“In the last few years, UCI has become a hub for bilingualism studies and research in Southern California,” says Julio Torres, associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese and director of the minor. “We are thrilled that this includes the preparation of future teachers in dual immersion schools who will have gained the knowledge and experience to promote the development and sustainability of a bilingual student population in California.”

Building career paths
In K-12 dual language immersion programs, students learn and are taught in both English and a second language, helping them achieve academic, bilingual and biliterate proficiency while also developing sociocultural competence. Participants can even earn an official Seal of Biliteracy on their high school diploma. 

UCI’s bilingual education minor – the only one of its kind in the UC system – was launched in 2018 in response to increasing demand for dual language immersion teachers. Taught by faculty in the School of Humanities and the School of Education, the minor provides students with foundational knowledge on issues in bilingual education and hands-on experience in a classroom. Forty-five undergraduates from a broad range of majors – including biology, Chinese studies, education sciences, English and mathematics – are currently enrolled in the minor.

One of them is Alondra Perez, a senior double majoring in Spanish and education sciences and president of the undergraduate Bilingual Teacher Student Association, who chose the minor to better prepare herself to become a dual language immersion teacher.

“As a native Spanish speaker, I love learning how students are able to learn and become biliterate in both English and Spanish,” says the first-generation college student.

This summer, Perez will be in the first cohort of aspiring teachers to participate in the newly accredited Bilingual Authorization Program as she pursues her master’s and credential at UCI.

Training future teachers
Over the past decade, UCI’s MAT program has produced more than 100 bilingual instructors, and the state-accredited BAP – combined with the minor in bilingual education – will further strengthen the pipeline of such teachers from UCI.

“The BAP will provide our talented MAT students with the skills necessary to excel as leaders of dual immersion programs and instruction,” says Richard Arum, dean of the School of Education.

As part of their training, qualified MAT BAP students will work with a master teacher in a local dual language immersion classroom. UCI currently partners with the Anaheim Elementary, Capistrano Unified, Garden Grove Unified, Magnolia, Newport-Mesa Unified, Saddleback Valley Unified and Santa Ana Unified school districts.

Tyrus Miller, dean of the School of Humanities, says that the undergraduate bilingual education minor and the BAP master’s track are examples of the power of collaboration to meet an important need for the people of California.

“In the humanities, we emphasize the importance of language learning and cultural knowledge for our students, who will live in an increasingly diverse society and work in multilingual professional environments,” Miller says. “Through this partnership with the School of Education, we are equipping our future teachers with skills to help bilingual K-12 students excel and thrive in school and beyond.”