The Graduate School of Education (GSE) formally launched a new training academy on June 20 for educators on Long Island and in Westchester County who serve English-language learners.
The primary goal of the Long Island/Westchester Bilingual Education/ESL Teacher Leadership Academy (BETLA) is to help such educators become effective instructional leaders, staff developers and mentors.
To mark the program’s opening, GSE held a reception at the University’s Westchester campus in West Harrison, N.Y. The event was a sendoff for the academy’s first 28 graduates and a welcome to the 30 members in its second cohort.
BETLA was made possible through a grant of $4 million over four-and-a-half years from the New York State Education Department.
“This academy addresses the need for highly qualified bilingual educators and ESL teacher-leaders and administrators who are knowledgeable and committed to promoting high academic standards for limited English proficient/English language learners,” said Anita Vazquez Batisti, Ph.D., associate dean at GSE.
“BETLA allows GSE—in partnership with Long Island and Westchester schools, districts and governmental agencies—to help teachers teach more effectively and to have all students, regardless of background, learn at higher levels,” she said.
The center was created through the Center for Educational Partnerships at GSE. It is the first of its kind for Westchester and Long Island.
It joins the Bilingual ESL Technical Assistance Centers (BETAC) that Fordham administers in the Bronx and the Lower Hudson Valley as a program that collaborates with the state education department.
Pedro Ruiz, Ph.D., coordinator in the education department’s Office of Bilingual Education, said Westchester and Long Island benefit most from an expanded BETLA program.
“We’ve been asking for many years to expand it outside New York City, so we decided to go with one in Westchester and Long Island. In a couple of years, we want to have two more—one of them in the Buffalo/Syracuse/Rochester area and another near Albany,” Ruiz said.
“Fordham has been in the lead not only for the BETLA program and for our BETAC, but has grants with the New York City Board of Education for principal preparation. It has proven to be an institution that will carry out a program in a way that’s going to be beneficial for teachers,” he said.
BETLA will be based in an office at the Westchester campus, where coordinators will implement services to Westchester and Long Island participants. Roughly 150 participants in five cohorts will take part in this program, including 15 students at each of two sites.
Nancy Rosario Rodriguez, director of the Fordham Westchester/Long Island BETLA, said many of the students recruited for the program came from Fordham’s Lower Hudson Valley BETAC.
“We have a cadre of bilingual and ESL teachers who are experts in their craft, and are doing great things for English language learners,” she said. “They’ve been very eager, committed and dedicated to the work and have entered a journey to become future leaders in schools across Westchester and Long Island.”
Each BETLA participant will earn as many as 15 graduate credits, paid for by the state education department. These participants will visit model classroom/school sites and receive ongoing professional development and leadership mentoring at Fordham and at their own schools.
Participants are also eligible to receive a tuition reduction from Fordham in order to complete the 30-credit master’s in administration and supervision degree. This degree, in turn, leads to a New York State School Building Leader (SBL) Certification.