TESOL/ENL Education at Niagara University: Multicultural Teaching & Vincentian Values

by Jacey Diez on November 14, 2016
TESOL/ENL Education at Niagara University:  Multicultural Teaching & Vincentian Values

At Niagara University, it is the mission of the College of Education to prepare leaders in educational professions who demonstrate the knowledge, skills and dispositions needed to serve others; and who further the values and practices of their respective professions in a global society. 

Teacher candidates in the TESOL program are inspired in the Vincentian tradition, and practice the core Vincentian values throughout their classroom teaching experience: spirituality, compassion, creativity and integrity.   

As a senior this year in the TESOL program, I’ll soon be graduating with a dual certification in TESOL pre-K-12 liberal arts and childhood education 1-6. I would like to take the opportunity to describe the overall mission and details of this new teaching profession, as well as answer some questions about the major, which is available for both undergraduate and graduate students! 

More often than not, I will have friends and family ask me, “What is TESOL? What does ESL stand for? Are there any jobs for ENL teachers in New York state right now?” And, my personal favorite, “What is ENL anyway? How do you teach kids if they speak a different language than you do?”

TESOL, a.k.a., Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, is the general name of the profession by which teachers instruct students from a wide variety of diverse cultures and backgrounds in the English language.

ENL, however, is the new term used to replace the older title, ESL, and stands for English as a New Language.  It is the new U.S.- based National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification acronym of choice for professionals in this field of study. (See TESOL.org for more information on this topic.)

With regards to teaching students who do not share the same native language as you do, speaking a second language is not necessarily required to enter the field of TESOL, but it is beneficial, in general, to have learned another language and to know another culture.

Jobs in the Buffalo area for ENL teachers are on the rise! As future educators in the growing field of English as a New Language, it is so vitally important to collaborate with your teacher during your teaching placements.

Classroom teachers are the best resources; they have the wisdom and professional experience to help you through the certification exam process, keep you up to date on new rules/state regulations and also have the best teaching practices.

My advice: always be willing to help during your placement! Whether it’s Learn and Serve, a teaching assistantship, or student teaching – make yourself a valuable asset to the multicultural classroom by getting involved and getting hands-on.

When collaborating, it is essential for teacher candidates in TESOL to work with your teacher to gather as much information as possible about the ENL students who are newcomers. Teachers should be knowledgeable on what country the student is from, what is the native language spoken, how long he/she has lived in the United States, and where and with whom the student is living.

It is critical to know all these facts because they may help the teacher become more informative of the student’s background, and also provide any assistance needed to help them develop and grow. It is also important to gather information from the student’s previous school in order to provide them with the right services.

However, this may not work for some students. Students may come from different countries without their school records, which makes it a bit harder for teachers to figure out the proper placements. (These students are referred to in NYS Education as SIFE, Students with Interrupted Formal Education.)

Also new to the TESOL field is new terminology! ENL students are tested each year and categorized into five levels of English proficiency. What was formerly known as just Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced English speakers has now been grouped into five distinct categories. According to the New York State Bilingual Common Core Initiative, these terms reflect the ever-growing multilingual student population and diverse ways in which languages are learned and taught. These new levels include Entering, Emerging, Transitioning, Expanding, and Commanding proficiency levels of English. This is important information to know, and helps teachers create their groups for ENL instruction to best tailor and suit the student’s learning needs and styles.

Here at Niagara, it is valuable to learn about the many resources available to TESOL teachers on campus. There are so many ways to get involved, and Niagara has a very strong international studies program that even services ELLs at the collegiate level!

The Niagara University Future Teachers Association (NUFTA) is a social and professional organization for education majors. Club membership is open to all students in the College of Education and provides a variety of opportunities to exchange ideas and enhance your perspective on professional education. Additionally, the Teacher’s Studio on the second floor of the library is a great resource for teachers. Be sure to go and try out the new digital cutout maker for all of your classroom needs!

Also on campus, the offices of Multicultural Affairs and International Relations are two great ways to get involved. This week is International Education Week (or #IEW2016) here at NU! The international education students have a wide variety of activities planned and highlights of the week include food from around the world, the International Nest, a presentation at the Castellani Art Museum called “Caligraffiti: Shifting Traditions,” Diversity Topic Thursday, and the New Brennan Center’s open house! For a complete list of event info and dates/times, be sure to check out the international students’ Facebook page or tune into this week’s Ridge Report!

Lastly, if you are new to the TESOL program and have any questions, I would love to meet with you and strongly encourage you to become a member of NUFTA! Be sure to join our new Facebook group, where undergraduate/graduate students come together to collaborate and share ideas.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more info on our ever-growing TESOL/ENL education program in the NU College of Education. Happy International Education Week, and go Purple Eagles!