As a recently immigrated high school junior in northern Virginia, Luis Poza, PhD, wrote a paper about Nathaniel Hawthorne’s use of juxtaposition in “The Scarlet Letter.” His teacher and classmates expressed surprise at his ability to produce such a well-written paper—because he’s Latino and multilingual.

Luis Poza with class
Luis Poza with class

As assistant professor of the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education (CLDE) program, Poza studies educational situations like this coupling of ethnicity and achievement, as well as larger issues of marginalization related to race, ethnicity and language. He came to CU Denver’s School of Education & Human Development (SEHD) in 2014 with the goal of developing the school’s Bilingual Education Specialist (BES) endorsement—and this fall, he can check that off his list.

The 10-credit-hour program may be added to the CLDE endorsement with curricula centered on supporting multilingual students across schooling environments. Poza said the program is highly needed in Denver, as the proportion of bilingual students and English learners in Denver Public Schools (DPS) grows and the majority of DPS teachers in bilingual placements lack certification as bilingual specialists.

Luis Poza with student
Luis Poza with student

“The BES endorsement is a very direct response to a community need,” he said. “We heard from metro-area schools that they want more bilingual educators with training around bilingual pedagogies.”

CU Denver is the only university in the Denver metro area to offer a BES certification. SEHD students in the new BES program will study various areas of pedagogy and linguistics, including second language acquisition theories, social perspectives on education and bilingual student assessment. With 10 of the required credit hours taught in Spanish, the BES program operates in partnership with CU Denver’s Department of Modern Languages.

“We want every teacher who is delivering instruction in both English and Spanish to be trained in the effective strategies that our BES endorsement supports,” Poza said. “And we want every student with Spanish as a home language to have access to that language at school.”

Instead of promoting a single “pure” Spanish, he said CU Denver’s BES program recognizes Spanish as it is currently spoken in the United States and in Colorado, incorporating local context and the authenticity of the language as it occurs in students’ lives.

Guest Contributor:  Amy Ventura

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