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GSE Recognizes Bilingual and ESL Teacher-Leaders


The Graduate School of Education (GSE) has welcomed a new group of 30 bilingual and ESL teachers into its leadership training academy and has sent its second cohort of teachers into Long Island and Westchester schools to assume new leadership roles.

The GSE celebrated the successes of its Long Island/Westchester Bilingual Education/ESL Teacher Leadership Academy (LI/W BETLA) on June 28 at the University’s Westchester campus in West Harrison, N.Y.

Now embarking on its third session, BETLA helps teachers become better instructional leaders, staff developers and mentors so they can build successful professional learning communities for English-language learners.

In welcoming the graduates and newcomers, James J. Hennessy, Ph.D., dean of GSE, noted BETLA’s place in a larger, ongoing mission to bring the school closer to the educational community—“basically to move us out of our building and into the schools,” he said.

Pedro Ruiz, Ph.D., coordinator of the New York State Education Department’s Office of Bilingual Education, explained why programs such as BETLA are so crucial.

“It’s not only about education,” Ruiz said. “It’s about being an advocate.”

“Beyond educating children, it’s about bringing them into this society, which in many ways rejects our kids, doesn’t give them the opportunity to succeed academically, socially and professionally.”

Ruiz said that the number of English-language learners who go on to earn higher education degrees remains unacceptably low. Through the work of these teachers, English-language learners will be given more options to choose what they want to do, he added.

“With the experience you are going to have here, you are going to be able to take care of all the kids in the school that you are going to be working with, to focus on their needs and help them achieve to their maximum potential, whatever that is,” he said.

Vernard Dezil, an eighth-grade bilingual math teacher who is part of the graduating cohort, reflected on the greater influence he and his fellow teacher-leaders will now be able to have.

“As teachers, we’ve always envisioned the classroom as the place where we could see the biggest impact. But as we went through the program, we realized that to assist a community, it’s best to be at the table as leaders,” he said.

Also present to formally present completion certificates to Cohort II and welcome Cohort III were:

• Anita Vasquez Batisti, Ph.D., associate dean of GSE;
• Nancy Rosario-Rodriguez, director of LI/W BETLA;
• Gerald Cattaro, Ed.D., chair of the Division of Educational Leadership, Administration and Policy at Fordham; and
• Michael T. Gillan, Ph.D. associate vice president of Fordham Westchester.

“You came to us as teachers, and today you leave as teacher-leaders,” said Rosario-Rodriguez, addressing the graduates.

To all the teachers she emphasized the need for a shared vision and a steadfast mission, and she implored them to continually practice and develop their leadership craft.

“I want to applaud you for the great work, the mission and the journey that you’ve embarked on,” she concluded.

Through a grant of $4 million over four-and-a-half years from the state Education Department, BETLA participants earn as many as 15 graduate credits and are also eligible to receive tuition reduction from Fordham to complete a 30-credit master’s degree in administration and supervision.

– Nina Romeo


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