Fresno Pacific University begins nation's first program to equip teachers for dual-immersion classes

The nation’s first program to prepare teachers to work in schools where students learn in two languages will be based at Fresno Pacific University.

Fresno Pacific Graduate School learned October 2 that its proposal for a federal Title VII grant for dual immersion teacher training was approved. The school will receive $250,000 this year, and funds are renewable for two more years. The project is a partnership between FPU, Fresno Unified School District and Parlier Unified School District and will serve teachers and schools throughout the Central Valley. U.S. Representative George Radanovich and Senator Barbara Boxer supported efforts to secure the grant.

The program has three main components:

  • identify students within the graduate school’s teacher education division for work in dual-immersion classes.
  • seminars and courses at schools to improve existing two-way immersion programs and the teachers who work in them. Ewing Elementary School, Fresno, is the first site.
  • a center at FPU offering materials and consulting to schools wishing to begin a two-way immersion program.

Candidates could come from FPU’s traditional undergraduate liberal studies major, a similar program for adults in the university Center for Degree Completion or Project VOICE, a program to help bilingual teacher aides earn a teaching credential.

Graduate faculty David Freeman, director of the language development program, and Yvonne Freeman, director of the literacy for multilingual learners and bilingual cross-cultural programs, will lead the new effort. Linda Hoff, head of the teacher education division, will also be involved.

Dual immersion programs are also called enriched education, two-way immersion or developmental bilingual education. In these elementary classrooms, students learn part of the day in English and part of the day in another language so students who need to learn English do so and those who speak English learn to learn a second. Children do not receive the same instruction twice, once in each language. “The big benefit is that every kid is learning two languages,” David Freeman said. The FPU program will work with those who teach in English and Spanish.

“Research shows native English speakers will, over several years, score better in English than students in all-English classrooms,” Yvonne Freeman said. “Spanish speakers score better in English than those in traditional bilingual programs or with no Spanish support.”

Though two-way immersion classes have become popular since their introduction in the 1970s, training for teachers has been lacking. “We’re trying to give schools the people to get these programs going,” David Freeman said. The goal is to have about 20 students in the program each year.

This new program is one more way FPU is serving the community and education. “Certainly it is an outreach to the diverse population of the valley to provide equitable education to all children,” David Freeman said.