The U.S. Department of Education, Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), recently awarded four grants totaling more than $10,000,000 to seven affiliates from the Texas A&M University Bilingual Education Programs and the Center for Research and Development in Dual Language and Literacy Acquisition (CRDLLA.)
Dr. Rafael Lara-Alecio is the director of CRDLLA and received $2.75 million to address in-service bilingual and English as second language teachers’ instructional enhancements delivered via virtual professional development. He will also research differences in instructional strategies, particularly related to academic language of science.
Dr. Hector Rivera, assistant professor of bilingual education and associate member of CRDLLA, received $2.75 million to offer training to teachers and families in the Dallas area regarding best practices for English language learners and to conduct evaluation research regarding such.
Drs. Tracy Spies, Maggie Huerta, and Tiberio Garza, all Ph.D. graduates from the Bilingual Education Program and assistant professors at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), received a $1.8 million. The focus is on improving academic language instruction in early childhood settings and to determine the impact of this intervention. Dr. Sharolyn Durodola, a former associate professor in bilingual education at Texas A&M and current professor at the UNLV, is also a Co-PI on the UNLV grant.
"My time at Texas A&M was instrumental for my career. I learned not just foundation knowledge and skills for conducting research, but what research looks like in action. I am very grateful to Texas A&M and to Dr. Lara-Alecio in the Bilingual Program for this foundational and critical training," said Dr. Huerta.
“My career has taken off incredibly after graduating from Texas A&M. As part of the Aggie Corps of Cadets, I learned to exercise the core values of courage, integrity, honor, discipline and selfless service that I still use today. Then, as a graduate student in Dr. Lara-Alecio’s Bilingual Program, I obtained critical knowledge and research skills which helped me apply for this grant,” explained Dr. Garza.
“Educational research, particularly school-based research, is complex. My time at Texas A&M in the Bilingual Education program prepared me not only to conduct rigorous research, but to understand how to approach research within complex contexts. Through the ongoing modeling of Dr. Lara and the bilingual education faculty, I have developed a deep appreciation for truly collaborative partnerships with schools in the research process,” added Dr. Spies.
Another grant recipient is Dr. Polly Trevino, a Ph.D. graduate from the Bilingual Education Program. She is currently assistant professor and Director of Bilingual/ESL Programs at Houston Baptist University. She received a $2.75 million grant to increase the number of bilingual and ESL certified teachers in the Houston area and to provide them with professional development while also analyzing the results of the trainings.
“Working on Dr. Lara-Alecio's grant-funded projects as a doctoral student gave me many insights into the grant-writing process, understanding of how to partner with school districts to meet their needs, and extensive experience providing professional development to teachers,” said Dr. Trevino.
Dr. Lara-Alecio had the privilege to mentor and work with the aforementioned individuals. He indicated, “Mentoring is and should be the most important commitment to our profession. Our commitment to the new generation of scholars should include the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed in academia. Getting external funding is the most effective way to introduce our future colleagues to produce better research and quality teaching practices that will impact our educational system. I cannot be more than proud of my former students and my colleagues ‘learning to fish’ effectively in this world of opportunities.