Student Voices! 2015 BE/ESL Minor Graduate – Maggie McCann

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Maggie McCann, Spring 2015 graduate discusses her experiences in the BE/ESL Minor program. Currently, McCann is teaching at a Chicago Public School in Rogers Park, and she has returned to DePaul to pursue a graduate degree in Curriculum Studies and Teacher Leadership.

 

 

What inspired you to pursue the BE/ESL minor, and how will it help you in your future endeavors?

When I first heard about the program, I was going into my junior year. I was an education student, and my endorsements were in Language Arts and Social Studies. When I was first approached about joining the new BE/ESL Minor program I didn’t think it was applicable to me at all. I already had two endorsements so I didn’t think it would be necessary, and I worried about the fact that I didn’t speak another language fluently. But after doing a little more research and learning that the program would not only look really good on a resume but would also broaden my knowledge, I decided to enroll.

I was totally blown away by all of the new theory and methods that I was learning. Compared to my course load in undergrad, the amount of new information particular to educating ESL students really helped me in my practice as a teacher-candidate, made me a better-rounded educator, and helped open doors for a variety of opportunities when I began looking for a job.

How would you describe the BE/ESL Minor program?

The program can accompany any education program. If you’re a World Languages major, if you’re an Elementary Ed major, if you specialize in reading, math, etcetera, it can be applicable to any content area. The courses range from linguistics, to theory and policy, as well as ESL teaching methods for in the classroom; not only pull-out ESL but also self-contained ESL. All of this information helped me immensely in my first classroom.

I was teaching 8th grade Language Arts and Social Studies and I had no idea what my ELL students would be like. I had no idea what their backgrounds would be, and on the first day of school I was really surprised to learn that 12 out the 27 of my students were refugee students. These students had really limited language proficiency and really diverse needs, but I would’ve been totally lost without the knowledge that I acquired through my study in the BE/ESL Minor program. I think it really goes to show that no matter where you plan to teach, or what content area you plan to teach in, or even what grade, you never know what type of children you’re going to be educating. In my classroom I had not only Spanish-speaking students, but I had students who spoke Urdu, and Hindi, and Mongolian. There were eight or more different languages spoken amongst my students for which I had to differentiate. But learning in the BE/ESL Minor program about how students learn language and how they acquire a second language really helped me in developing my curriculum and my practice.

How have faculty influenced your views about teaching Bilingual Education & English as a Second Language?

The faculty members in the BE/ESL Program come with such a variety of experiences; not only from teaching in the classroom, but also from teaching in other states and other countries. They first inform students about the different policy for and needs of linguistically-diverse students, as well as how you as an educator can become knowledgeable about incorporating these policies and needs into best practices. A lot of teachers don’t really know how to teach ESL students, and think that it might not be their job but obviously with the growing number of English language learners we have in our classroom, it’s not just the ELL teacher’s job. The professors I had emphasized to me that it’s any teacher’s job to not only accommodate but to differentiate for students. Through the BE/ESL faculty I gained the awareness needed to successfully educate and recognize the difficulties and any of the varying needs that my students might have.

What is the most important thing you learned in the program?

The most important thing I learned from the program didn’t seem obvious until after being in my own classroom: you can’t expect there to be a one-size-fits-all teaching method to educate your students. You have to be aware that they all are going to have different needs depending on what their first language was, or the struggles they may have faced in their home country before coming to the United States and learning English. Being open, informed, and flexible to not just accommodate but to embrace the diverse learners in your classroom, both culturally and linguistically, is definitely the most important thing that I learned in the BE/ESL Minor program.

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