Project NEXUS helps prepare educators to teach math and science to English language learners

A University of North Texas program is enhancing math and science teachers' skills and knowledge to help them more effectively teach middle school and high school students who are English language learners, thanks to a $985,000 Title III National Professional Development grant from the U.S. Department of Education. UNT was one of 101 universities across the country to receive the grant, which is funding 100 percent of the project.

Through Project NEXUS, UNT is partnering with the Region 10 Education Service Center and Denton and Lewisville school districts to offer professional development workshops to:

  • mathematics and science teachers in the Denton and Lewisville school districts,
  • faculty members in the Department of Teacher Education and Administration in the UNT College of Education and
  • UNT College of Education students who are studying to become math and science teachers.

"Texas public schools have more than 800,000 English language learners, and about 200,000 of them attend school in north Texas," said Dr. Rossana Boyd, principal investigator and director of the Bilingual/ESL Teacher Certification Programs at UNT. "This is an important issue in our area, and in these workshops, teachers learn strategies and approaches that can help them teach more effectively. In turn, students benefit by understanding mathematics and science concepts, leading to better academic performance in classroom and state tests and increasing their possibilities for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics."

The Project NEXUS professional development workshops began in September and will continue through 2017. So far, 20 teachers from five schools in the Denton school district and 20 teachers from five schools in the Lewisville school district have taken part in the workshops. Thirteen UNT faculty members — who teach future teachers – are taking the workshop now.

"I came away with an in-depth understanding of the process individuals go through as they are acquiring a new language and how to best facilitate learning," said workshop participant Cindy Woods, a master teacher in Teach North Texas, a UNT program that prepares future secondary mathematics and science educators. "Future teachers need to be prepared to teach all learners, regardless of their national origin, culture or language background, as the population of our public schools reflects students from around the world."

Also through Project NEXUS:

  • Principals receive professional development. Administrators are given an overview about what the teachers learned and what to look for during classroom walk-throughs, and they learn how to foster a more positive school climate for English language learners. Principals from five schools in the Lewisville school district are slated for professional development Feb. 11 (Monday).
  • UNT students studying to become teachers receive scholarships to enroll in an undergraduate course about teaching English as a second language. So far, eight pre-service teachers received scholarships to enroll in the course.
  • UNT faculty and students are given an opportunity to attend national conferences related to bilingual education. Faculty members are slated to attend a conference of the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE) in Florida and the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) International Convention in Dallas.

-Ellen Rossetti, News Promotions