First Cohort of Teachers in Kansas City DOE Grant Reflect on Program

| February 14, 2014
Kansas City ESOL grant

Webster Kansas City celebrated with the first cohort after completing their ESOL certificates in December.

In the spring of 2012, Webster University was awarded a five-year National Professional Development Grant by the Department of Education, funding “The Culturally Responsive Instruction for English Learners Project.”

Now nearly two years later, the project’s first participants are seeing results.

Over the past 18 months, 12 full-time teachers doubled as full-time students, taking professional development steps to make their classrooms a better learning environment for all. They signify a necessary evolution in education for their Kansas City community and country. Supported by the largest federal grant ever received by Webster University, they are now holders of an earned ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) certificate from Webster University’s Kansas City campus location.

“I have been able to help teachers throughout the building strengthen their instructional delivery through strategies and application of strategies to help all learners, not just English Language Learners (ELLs)” reports Ali M. Johnston-Hull, graduate of the program and an instructional coach at J.A. Rogers Elementary.

Preparing for, and Educating, a More Diverse Society

While the country is increasingly encountering a diverse range of learners, these teachers in Kansas City, Mo., are putting forth their best efforts to welcome and effectively engage these students. More than 40 percent of students who call the Kansas City Missouri School District home are English Language Learners.

That’s where Webster University and the federal grant come in. One in four children in America (up from one in five when the $1.9 million grant was approved just two years ago) are from immigrant families where at least one other language aside from English is spoken in the home.

“The diversity in our nation’s schools is not fully reflected in the teaching force” according to To be more effective in this context, teachers must increase their knowledge in the areas of oral language development, academic language, and cultural diversity and inclusivity.

Rosalind O’Hora, instructional leader at Whittier Elementary School, recognizes that, “As ELLs, they were unable to verbalize their needs. So meeting those needs was much more challenging until [I] completed the classes at Webster, which helped [me] to better anticipate their needs.”

Advocates for ELL Students and their Families

The program gives teachers the opportunity to act as needed advocates for English Language Learners and their families.

“One of the values of the program is to learn that ELLs and their families need advocates,” says Gayle Bradshaw, coordinator and adjunct faculty at Webster Kansas City. “As teachers of ELL’s, we owe our families and communities the respect and support to help them become successful members of our society.”

Over the five-year duration of the grant, about 100 students will go through the curriculum. Though they represent a small percentage of the overall teaching population, they are striving to make a big difference in their schools and community now and in the years to come.

Taking this step not by requirement, but out of their eagerness to see a change and help students succeed, the 12 from the first cohort hope to set an example for current and future teachers in both the city and in the nation.

To quantify the effectiveness of the efforts of the grant, KCPS instructional coaches will observe the graduates and benchmark them against observation results initially taken before the program’s start.

If early anecdotal responses prove indicative, the training is necessary and must continue.

“The Webster TESL program was rigorous, packed with a combination of experienced knowledgeable professors and curriculum that positively impacted student learning, and rigorous,” says Larry Weible, a teacher at East High School and a member of the first cohort.

“The competitive teamwork atmosphere that quickly developed in our cohort was instrumental in expanding our knowledge beyond the TESL curriculum. The TESL experience was more than a certification program for English language learners. The knowledge gained is applicable to all learners in every classroom in any school setting.”

About the First Cohorts
  • The schools they teach in have some of the highest EL populations in the district, including: East High School, J.A. Rogers, and Whittier. Other schools represented by other cohorts include Trailwoods, Paige, Longfellow, Carver, Foreign Language Academy, Garfield, Gladstone, James, Alta Vista, Hope Academy.
  • Nine of the 12 teachers in the first cohort are continuing on at Webster University to earn their Master’s degrees in TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language).
  • Thirty-eight more teachers have been accepted in cohorts 2, 3, and 4. Cohort 2 (11 teachers) will be completing the program in May, and Cohort 3 (12 teachers) will be completing next December.
  • Fifteen teachers were just accepted into Cohort 4 and began classes in January.

Congratulations to members of the first cohort: Kimberly Bonner, Jamie Braden, Deborah Brock, Laura Dickinson, Margaret Everist, Allison Johnston-Hull, Anne Wolff Katzfey, Rosalind O’Hora, Amy Teeple, Larry Weible and Donna Wright.

Also joining them at their certificate celebration were Dr. Cass Butler, Midwest Regional Director, Webster University; Dr. Gayle Bradshaw, Coordinator, Education Programs, Webster University; Merriam Massey, Federal Grants Coordinator, and adjunct instructors Allyson Hile, KCPS Language Services Director; Anne Sewell, KCPS  ESL Resource Teacher, Dr. Alicia Miguel and Dr. Anna Rizzi.

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Category: International & U.S. Campuses, Webster News

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