Erik Martinez completed the BE/ESL minor program to compliment his teacher education degree. Currently, he is a student teacher in a first grade bilingual classroom. Martinez discusses his experiences in the BE/ESL minor program.
Erik Martinez was first inspired to get involved in the BE/ESL minor program because of his own bilingualism. He explains, “The BE/ESL program has helped me understand and appreciate my identity as a person who is bilingual. Being an ELL [English Language Learner] myself, I want to help those that are in the same place I was fifteen years ago when I began schooling.” Martinez was also interested in language acquisition theory and the cognitive processes that happen in the brain when one is learning a first or second language.
According to Martinez, one of the most important experiences he gained from the BE/ESL minor degree was the opportunity to observe bilingual classrooms, something that he had not been able to do through the regular teacher education program. He asserts that the opportunity to see how ESL and bilingual programs function in schools has both prepared him to teach comfortably in a bilingual setting and helped him understand the universal need for more bilingual classrooms. He explains that this type of immersion makes the BE/ESL program very well rounded, “There’s a good balance between theory and practice [in the program]. Students also have the opportunity to conduct their own research in classrooms, which brings things full circle between inquiry, research, and application.”
Further, he describes how the faculty in the BE/ESL program elevated his views on bilingual education to a higher standard. “The faculty, through their work and their passion in the field, helped me look past the stigma commonly associated with bilingual education; that ELL learners are “different,” or that bilingual education is a tedious process. They have helped me see bilingual education in a better light, as an important and necessary field, but also as something that’s worth pursuing.”
Ultimately, Martinez states that the most important thing he learned from the BE/ESL minor program is the importance of having the appropriate background knowledge and language to engage in meaningful conversations about bilingual education. Because of the program, he sees himself as equipped with the tools to become an advocate for bilingual education and an agent of positive change in his community.