Teaching Connections Explores Needs of Emergent Bilingual Students and Families

How educators and others can support emergent bilingual learning students and families is the focus of this year’s Bill and Linda Tubbs Teaching Connections professional development program planned for January 30-31 at the University of Northern Iowa College of Education. 

Emergent bilingual learners refers to students gaining proficiency in English who learn and speak in a home language as well. It is considered a broader, more inclusive term which reflects a growing number of students who bring a diverse language background to the classroom in Iowa and across the nation. 

This year’s workshop is from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day at the Schindler Education Center. The program features:

  • Panel discussions with representatives from the Waterloo and Marshalltown school districts, who will share their triumphs, challenges and perspectives in this area, including divergent needs outside the traditional classroom. Moderators will include Amy White, Waterloo Community School District; Rachel Inks, Marshalltown Community School District; Lisa Wymore, Central Rivers Area Education Agency; and a representative of Sports Plus Therapy, Marshalltown.  
  • A session moderated by Henny Ohr with EMBARC (Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center), looking at diverse needs of these students and their families in Iowa. 
  • Five UNI guest speakers: 
    • Michele Devlin, professor, public health and education;
    • David Hernández-Saca, assistant professor, special education;
    • Mark Grey, professor, sociology, anthropology and criminology;
    • Joyce A Milambiling, professor, languages and literatures; and, 
    • Aliza Fones, assistant professor,  languages and literatures. 

Moderators and panelists with the Marshalltown and Waterloo schools and EMBARC will connect with the program attendees at Schindler Education Center via Zoom distance learning. 

“This is an annual opportunity which brings together future teachers, teachers in preparation and teacher leaders,” says Mary Stichter, COE faculty coordinator along with Hernández-Saca, Sophia Min and Joan Bessman Taylor. “Because emergent bilingual learners are encountered in many settings, we also welcome others, such as sports coaches and athletic trainers and students preparing for those careers.” 

Now in its fourth year, the initiative was renamed to reflect a donation by Bill and Linda Tubbs to the UNI Foundation to support the College of Education. There is no charge to attend.