Aquinas College Awarded $2.5 Million Grant to Train ESL Teachers

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The U.S. Department of Education has awarded Aquinas College $2,523,712 to address the shortage of English as a Second Language (ESL) and Bilingual teachers in Michigan. 

Rui Niu-Cooper, Ph.D., associate professor of Education, was the driving force behind the college earning a five-year Professional Development grant through the U.S. Department of Education. The grant supports Dr. Niu-Cooper’s leadership in improving classroom instruction for English Language Learners (ELs). The grant program is in partnership with the Grand Rapids Public Schools, Kellogsville Public Schools, Kentwood Public Schools, Kent Intermediate School District, Wyoming Public Schools, the Diocese of Grand Rapids Office of Catholic Schools, Godfrey-Lee Public Schools, and Godwin Heights Public Schools.

“This funding will allow us to address the crucial need for these educators in our community,” said Niu-Cooper. “The English as a Second Language program at Aquinas is a model program and this will help us work collaboratively with our partner schools to better meet the needs of our students.” 

The grant provides resources necessary for developing and implementing a series of professional development courses to pre-service teachers, paraprofessionals and in-service teachers. Upon successful completion of the full course sequence, participants will be eligible for Michigan Department of Education ESL/Bilingual teaching endorsements.

“Aquinas College has always been focused on responding to the needs in the community as an educational institution,” said Juan Olivarez, Ph.D., president of Aquinas College. “The work of Dr. Niu-Cooper is a fine example of our commitment to collaboration and community impact.”

The college will receive the grant funding in increments of $425,000-549,000 per year for five years. 

According to the Michigan Department of Education, there are currently 88,000 students in need of ESL education, but only 300 ESL and bilingual programs available to serve these students.

A project kick-off meeting is scheduled for late September with recruitment of eligible teachers and paraprofessionals to begin in October.