Students, faculty gain insight at bilingual education conference

By Raquel Talamantes

A group of UNT students interested in bilingual learning got a chance to expand their education beyond the classroom by attending the Texas Association for Bilingual Education (TABE) conference in Galveston in October. UNT College of Education and other faculty members also attended.

“TABE is a gathering of dedicated education professionals and is important because it provides a broader perspective of serving bilingual and ESL students in all content areas,” said Cindy Watson, a UNT Teach North Texas master teacher who attended the conference sponsored by Project NEXUS: A Title III National Professional Development Project. “Being present at the TABE conference provides a window into the world of being bilingual and its inherent opportunities and obstacles.”

In addition to Watson, UNT attendees included Dayton Ryden and Esmeralda Sheran, students in the Teach North Texas program; Dina Castro, the Velma Schmidt Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Education; Rossana Boyd, director of the Bilingual/English as a Second Language (ESL) Teacher Education programs; Keylee Slough, a post-baccalaureate student seeking certification in EC-6 ESL education; and Laura Cardenas, president of the Bilingual/ESL Student Organization (BESO).

The TABE conference presented sessions directed toward teaching others ways to best serve bilingual students. According to Cardenas, topics ranged from the importance of dual language education and how to advocate for bilingual education to how to grow as a BESO organization.

“We had the opportunity to explore the Gifted and Talented gap in identifying English Language Learner (ELL) students, how to differentiate for different English proficiency levels with a vast number of effective instructional strategies, how to incorporate more literacy into all content areas that included math and science,” Watson said. “We even had an opportunity to see how current research is conducted in the bilingual community, where it is published, and how articles are selected to be published.”

Attendees also heard testimonials from people who have had to overcome obstacles in life pertaining to being bilingual, Cardenas said.

“My biggest take away was knowing that I’m not alone in this journey,” she said. “We are the voices of those kids who don’t have one and we need to use it. I hope others want to share what they learned - that being there has shown them how important their voice is and how incredible bilingual education is and the importance of it.”