Professor awarded $2.2M grant; program to empower English learners

By: Mary-Ellen Davis, Staff Writer

Patricia Doran, a professor in the College of Education, was awarded a $2.2 million grant from the federal government to provide skills training to teachers working with English learners.

The grant will help fund Doran’s “English Learners Moving to Proficient Outcomes with Engagement and Rigor” program, also known as EMPOWER.

“The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, their Office of English Language Acquisition, which is the federal office that deals with instruction and support with English language learners, and helping teachers gain the skills to support English language learners,” Doran said

Doran is not working alone on this project. She has co-principal investigators Elizabeth Neville, special education department chair, and Gilda Martinez-Alba, educational technology and literacy department chair. Ray Lorion, executive director of the Center for Application and Innovation Research in Education, will lead the evaluation effort for the project.

“Dr. Doran is the lead, so she is the one that primarily put together the grant,” Neville said. “She is the go-to person for the grant, she is the queen of the grant, but again, anything you do collaboratively comes out better in the end, right?”

The grant provides a partnership with the Monarch Academy’s two locations in Annapolis and Laurel. It is meant to help provide teachers with the skills they need to better help English learners, and to increase teachers’ capacity to understand and support English learners, according to Doran.

Neville said the project was written to help provide a curriculum for undergraduate students, to allow them to be better prepared to work with English learners and to provide support for teachers already in the workforce to get a master’s degree. Another part of the project allows for real-time development for teachers in the Monarch Academy schools, and outreach to the surrounding communities.

“The grant enables us to take this money, basically, and say how do we help prepare you [teachers] to meet the needs of English learners, and that’s including their families,” Neville said.

Martinez-Alba believes that this grant will be beneficial because officials from Monarch Academy will be able to voice where they think they need the most help financially. 

“So far what we’ve done is gone to the Monarch School in Annapolis and met with a team there of the principal and some ESOL teachers and other stakeholders, anwd we’ve talked to them about what is it  that they would find most beneficial,” Martinez-Alba said. “Because, of course, you want to provide what they want and what they actually need. We don’t want to come in and impose what we think they should have, because they know best.”

Doran has many visions for the program.

She wishes to see continued growth and development in teachers and their abilities to support English learners, and that those who participate in the professional development will have the opportunity to think about how to better their skills to continue to support these students.

“My hope is that we can think about all the things these students are good at and then give teachers and help teachers continue to build their instructions so we can support English learners,” she said.

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