Special acknowledgement given to Moravian’s ESL program
Moravian’s graduate-level English as a Second Language (ESL) program, has received recognition from the Pennsylvania Department of Education with special designation, making it a promising model for the entire state.
“It is especially exciting that we received the special acknowledgement,” says Joe Shosh ’88, professor of education and chair of the Education Department. “We were given this designation because the faculty in our department not only meet requirements, but exceed them. Our close partnership with the Bethlehem Area School District also played a part in this designation.”
The model of professional development for practicing teachers used at Moravian has been highlighted and praised in key educational publications such as English Journal and Teaching Education. It also has received attention at major national and international conferences sponsored by the American Educational Research Association. Participants in Moravian’s ESL program, which is administered through the Comenius Center, will receive a specialist certification allowing them to teach English language learners. The only co-requisite is initial teacher certification as an early childhood teacher, middle level or secondary educator.
“The big news here is that our undergraduate students can also do this as part of their teacher certification,” says Shosh. “The need is there, and this makes our students more marketable. Every classroom teacher serves English language learners, and this certification gives them the tools to be more effective.”
In fact, two undergraduate Moravian teacher certification candidates are already gearing up to graduate with this additional certification. And 12 practicing teachers are also taking the necessary courses to earn the certification, which counts toward their continuing education credits needed to renew certifications.
The program requires an additional 15 credits of ESL-specific coursework, and admission requirements include a 3.0 GPA or higher. The student also must be at least a junior or senior who has been admitted into the teacher education program with a positive record of field experience placements.
“Moravian was among the first of a half dozen institutions in the state to offer ESL certification more than ten years ago,” explains Shosh. “This new program is completely aligned with our action research philosophy and provides an additional opportunity to work with English language learners in Bethlehem’s summer English acquisition program.”
Shosh emphasizes that Moravian’s program is financially competitive, something not all prospective applicants might immediately understand. “Our tuition is always placed at or below the state higher education rate,” he says. “Here they get a Moravian College education with all our resources and partnerships and our leadership in the field.”
One current partnership involves a sixth-grade team at Nitschmann Middle School, where the students visit Moravian’s campus to learn first-hand how higher education functions. Moravian students also have visited the younger students in their school.
While the Bethlehem Area School District is Moravian’s “epicenter” according to Shosh, students always have participated in projects around the Lehigh Valley. “Moravian students tutor and do field experiences and we partner in a variety of different ways.”
Nearly 200 Moravian students completed field experience placements in 237 Lehigh Valley public school classrooms last semester, providing almost 23,000 hours of service as a crucial facet of their teacher education, Shosh adds.
He is proud of the 19 certification programs offered at Moravian and of the research into teaching and learning within public school classrooms that is at the heart of Moravian’s reflective practice model. His 2012 alumni report detailing recent student and faculty accomplishments is available on YouTube.
“We have one of the leading programs in Pennsylvania,” says Shosh. “Harrisburg has told us so. Moravian teacher certification candidates are exceptionally well prepared. Their liberal arts education guides their classroom practice, and they know how to reflect on that practice to meet the needs of their students.”