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Press Release for Tuesday, November 15, 2016

UNF Awarded $2.2M U.S. Department of Education Grant for Training ESOL Teachers

Media Contact: Joanna Norris, Director
Department of Public Relations
(904) 620-2102

Dr. Otilia Salmón, an associate professor in the Department of Foundations and Secondary Education in the College of Education and Human Services at the University of North Florida, has been awarded a grant from the United States Department of Education. This is the largest grant the College of Education has ever received.

The grant funds make it possible for UNF to work in collaboration with Duval County Public Schools to address the chronic and growing demand for well-trained teachers who are equipped to support the rising number of English language learners in the county’s public schools.

            Duval County Public Schools have experienced a huge influx of English language learners, while its ESOL- (English for Speakers of Other Languages) certified teaching force has remained low. The U.S. Department of Education grant, which will be $2.2M over a five-year period, will establish the ESOL Career Ladder for Student Success project (ESOL CLASS), designed to address this pressing need in public schools.


“A program like ESOL CLASS is desperately needed in Duval County and will help address a need in our public schools. A lack of ESOL-certified teachers is having grave and negative impacts upon an already vulnerable student demographic, said Salmón. “Research data clearly show that students who struggle with English are exponentially more likely to fail academically, be held back one or more grades and/or drop out of school.”


DCPS’ ESOL population grew exponentially from 600 to 4,000 students from 1990 to 2010 and today, serves 6,000 English language learners from more than 130 countries, representing over a 100 different languages.


“This grant allows us to continue to improve our relationship with UNF and strengthen our pipeline for much needed ESOL teachers,” said DCPS Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti. “It will be exciting to see our own staff of paraprofessionals grow into future teachers, this is yet another example of enhancing career opportunities for our employees to improve recruitment and retention.”


            The model for the ESOL CLASS project will provide a career ladder for bilingual paraprofessionals who wish to complete their degrees. It will also allow them to meet the requirements for becoming certified ESOL teachers within the school district.

            Over the five-year grant period, graduates from ESOL CLASS cohorts will bring to DCPS classrooms fluency in two or more languages, cultures that more closely mirror those of the students themselves and a variety of previous work experiences. More importantly, the model promises to provide many of the district’s most disadvantaged students—the students who are most likely to suffer academic failure, to drop out of school and to face few rewarding job prospects—with highly skilled, passionate and culturally competent teacher-mentors. Additionally, the project will serve 125 English language learners’ parents via workshops and resources provided by program partners.


ESOL CLASS will recruit and prepare high-quality bilingual and multi-lingual job seekers to assume employment as ESOL or dual language teachers in high-need DCPS schools. The program will prepare three types of potential candidates: current bilingual paraprofessionals, preservice bilingual teachers and bilingual college graduates. Through a rigorous application process, candidates will be selected, trained and supported to become certified Florida ESOL and/or dual language classroom teachers.


            Projected participants over the five-year period is expected to be a total of 160 ESOL-certified teachers. The first cohort of teachers is currently being recruited for the spring semester and will include up to 50 candidates with a college degree seeking ESOL certification.


The second cohort will have up to 25 candidates with little or no college seeking a bachelor’s in education and ESOL certification, while the third cohort will also have up to 25 students with an associate’s degree seeking a bachelor’s in education and ESOL certification. The last cohort will have up to 60 preservice candidates seeking a bachelor’s in education to obtain ESOL certification.


This grant was made possible in part due to letters of support from community partners, including DCPS, Jacksonville Public Education Fund, Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, Lutheran Social Services, to name a few.


            For more information about participating in the ESOL CLASS project, contact Salmón at (904) 620-1842 or at .


            UNF, a nationally ranked university located on an environmentally beautiful campus, offers students who are dedicated to enriching the lives of others the opportunity to build their own futures through a well-rounded education.