Magdalena Herdoíza-Estévez's vast personal and professional experience
have made her a passionate and creative professor. Her own experience
with different cultures as she lived, studied, and worked in several
countries made her aware of the special difficulties faced by language
learners, both in terms of their language learning and the complex
cultural experience of living in a new culture.
Magdalena currently heads the New Neighbors Program at Indiana
University Southeast and works with the ESL/ENL License Program. These
programs offer very special opportunities to licensed teachers who want
to better understand the special challenges and opportunities involved
in working with non-native English speakers and English Learners (ELs).
Let's hear more about these truly unique and exciting programs in
1. First of all, how did you become interested in the field of
English as a Second (or New) Language?
It all started with our observation of the demographic changes
occurring in Southern Indiana about 15 years ago. Placing future
teachers in classrooms, this change became noticeable enough to raise
the need of supporting teachers and non-native students as they both
struggled in the process of teaching and learning.
It was imperative for our IU Southeast teacher education programs to
embrace this challenge as quickly and effectively as the social and
educational new needs called for.
I knew firsthand that teachers who master the cultural and pedagogical
aspects of best English Learning practices are effective in guiding
their non-native English speakers to success. That was my children's
fortune when we first moved to the US some twenty years ago, with our
own six- and nine-year-old English Learners.
2. You have studied at
universities in several different countries. How has this changed you
as a teacher?
Living abroad for substantial periods of your life changes you, per se.
My pedagogical studies in Italy propelled my interest in progressive
and transformational schools of thought.
These were broadened later through what I now see as an indispensable
ingredient for sound education models: a sociological perspective,
which my French degrees provided. The emphasis of the common humanistic
approach of my graduate education broadened and refined my perspective
on the articulation of complex pedagogical, cultural, and social
All of these are, I believe, indispensable for a more accurate
understanding of the education process in which human beings interact
around teaching and learning. Individuals bring with them their prior
knowledge, cultures, languages, and life histories, and these must be
acknowledged in the education process.
3. Tell us a little about
the ESL/ENL License program at Indiana
University Southeast in partnership with Indiana University
Bloomington. Who is it for and who is it not for?
The license was conceived primarily as a response for teachers in our
local communities and schools with the purpose of equipping them with
research-based and application tools for ESL/ENL best practices. Our
program requires an initial teaching license; therefore, it is directed
4. As the courses for the
additional license in ESL/ENL were structured, what was the guiding
principle behind the program?
A balance between research-focused courses and method courses was our
guiding principle. We deeply believe in the value of solid theoretical
foundations to sustain and inform the teachers' practice and see praxis
as a source for furthering theoretical thought. Both are (or should be)
5. What special
opportunities does your program make available to its students?
In terms of delivery, our program offers four on-line courses, three
hybrid courses, and a strong clinical component, which includes the
equivalent of one credit hour of observations in local model settings,
and two hour credits' worth of teaching English Learners.
This last one can take place in local schools or abroad. We offer a
unique opportunity to teach for three weeks in Ecuador partner schools.
This experience allows our participant candidates to be fully immersed
in a different culture, teach in three socio-economic contexts,
practice and experiment the best practices they have studied with
significant numbers of English learners, and gain in empathy with those
immigrant students and families who they encounter in their schools.
From their own struggles while in Ecuador, they better understand the
struggles of English learners, who do not and cannot master the US
language and cultural codes.
6. What specific
requirements are there for people interested in your program? Should
applicants be experienced teachers?
As previously stated, having an initial teaching license is required.
However, no experience is expected for admission purposes. No foreign
language is required either.
This is a common misconception teachers tend to have. It is true that
knowing another language helps ENL/ESL teachers better understand the
process of language acquisition and assist some students who might
share that specific language the teacher knows. However, an effective
ENL/ESL teacher is able to teach ALL students well.
New Neighbors started as a project funded by the US Department of
Education. Its goal was to improve the success opportunities for ELs
(English Learners) through the preparation of specialized teachers
(ENL/ESL license) and systemic professional development for mainstream
It focused on a partnership with a network of three school districts
and eight schools. Also, every education program in our School had
faculty prepared in the ENL/ESL area, which allowed for best ENL
practices to be mainstreamed in our programs.
The project had the merit of giving a solid and hopeful voice to
ESL/ENL education as an effective response to the needs of ELs and
beyond. As the project developed in the field, teachers who underwent
ESL/ENL professional development were the first ones to discover its
effectiveness. They signed up for the licensing program, starting a
trend that steadily reaches more teachers.
Only in its first five years of operation, 58 teachers completed the
program. Now, our program reaches beyond Southern Indiana, with many
teachers from Kentucky. The New Neighbors is now a University Center
and continues to expand its reach and its components. New districts and
schools, a strong family-school partnership program, and a newly born
youth program are providing us new tools to positively impact the lives
of ELs, their teachers, and their families.
8. You have two different
programs: the ESL/ENL License program and the Master's in Elementary or
Secondary Education with ESL/ENL Concentration. Could you tell us a bit
about the different programs and the specific aims of each?
A couple of years ago, the Graduate Studies team assessed the fact that
the preparation the license candidates receive was solid and rigorous
enough to justify counting it as a content area (concentration) to be
complemented basically by three core graduate courses for the master's
and an elective. That means that, with a few more credits,
teachers can now get a master's degree with concentration in ESL/ENL.
This has been a well-received opportunity.
9. You also work with a
study abroad program in Ecuador. What is the goal of this study abroad?
How does it enrich students’ experiences and how is it structured?
As I mentioned earlier, since 2008, the option of doing part of the
clinical work in Ecuador was made available for ENL/ESL licensing
teachers (and now for those pursuing the master's degree as well). The
study abroad program in Ecuador was born in 2002 with a focus on
diversity, cross-cultural education, and a hands-on immersion in
Ecuadorian partner schools and families.
In its initial 13 years, the program has evolved from including
education majors exclusively, to become an umbrella for students in any
major pursuing personal and professional growth in areas of diversity
and global perspectives.
Students live with host families, teach in the partner schools, do a
small inquiry project, engage in service-learning in an indigenous
community of the Andes, take short leisure travels, and explore what
Quito and Ecuador offer in culture, history, and natural beauty.
Pre-service and in-service teachers, along with students from other
majors, have taught and learned along with students and colleagues for
three weeks. The richness of the process allows participants to
experience what it is to be a non-native language speaker in a country
they don’t know, and also practice teaching English to students with
variable language levels, different social, cultural, and ethnic
background; all in the same country.
All participants gain from this experiential learning; teachers come
back to the US with a clearer understanding of the importance of
incorporating a cross-cultural perspective as an essential part of
ESL/ENL best practices. Four master's candidates will be taking
advantage of this opportunity in the summer of 2015.
10. What is the best
piece of advice you could give to teachers of English?
What I just mentioned about the need to view the teaching of English as
a second or new language as more than language instruction alone, but
also as a complex navigation between cultural codes and human
histories, is probably something all teachers could contemplate.
A second suggestion is for teachers to immerse themselves in another
culture and make the effort to learn another language. The professional
and personal growth these processes offer are unequaled.
Thank you so much for
taking the time to share this information with us, Magdalena! IU
Southeast offers some really exciting and unique opportunities to its
students, who are sure to become wonderful teachers. Thanks for all
your hard work!