An education project promotes a multilingual and inclusive campus

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As a first-generation Mexican-American, Ana Zermeño Campos grew up speaking Spanish at home with her immigrant parents and four siblings. From elementary school to high school – and now to college – she learned all subjects in English.

“When we started school, we discovered a culture very different from the one we were used to, as well as a language that our parents always had difficulty understanding,” Zermeño Campos explained.

But now, Zermeño Campos, a first-generation bilingual student and student of child and adolescent studies at Cal State Fullerton, has created a Spanish math lesson plan as part of the AMIELA project.

The AMIELA project pairs bilingual mentor teachers with bilingual students in their discipline to co-design a lesson plan delivered in a language other than English. This effort is a way to promote a multilingual campus where Spanish and other world languages ​​are heard, spoken and learned through different subjects.

With the support of a new $67,000 award from the CSUF Scott-Jewett Fund for Student Success and Innovation, the project is expanding across disciplines and majors, as well as languages ​​spoken on campus. , such as Vietnamese, Korean, Mandarin, Farsi, Hindi and Pashto. . It is one of 11 campus programs receiving support from Scott-Jewett’s $40 million gift to the university this year.

Amiela Project
Bilingual teachers and students of the AMIELA project.

Julián Jefferies, associate professor of literacy and reading education, and Fernando Rodríguez-Valls, secondary education teacher, coordinate the AMIELA project. The name of the project means “Learn my language in my discipline in Spanish” or “Aprendiendo Mi Idioma en la Asignature”.

“We want to give plurilingual students the means to make full use of their linguistic repertoires. We designed this program to value and embrace the multilingual skills that many undergraduate students bring to CSUF,” said Rodríguez-Valls, originally from Spain.

Zermeño Campos created a lesson plan as part of a math class for primary school teachers with mentor Armando Martínez-Cruz, a math teacher. She learned about developing mathematical terms and concepts in Spanish, added Zermeño Campos, who aspires to become an elementary school teacher.

“We build learning environments where students’ identities are recognized and where learning includes students’ culture, language and family backgrounds,” said Martínez-Cruz, born and raised in Mexico City and whose work includes the training of mathematics teachers. “Powerful learning occurs when teaching methods include students’ native language, which is part of their identity and a significant asset.”

To date, faculty members from the biological sciences, business, engineering and mathematics have worked with 56 students to develop Spanish lesson plans – from learning about infectious diseases to discussing the prices of gasoline.

Since the project began in spring 2020, it has been funded by the California State University Math and Science Teachers Initiative, which has limited the scope to collaboration with Spanish-speaking faculty members in STEM disciplines ( science, technology, engineering and math), Jefferies said.

The objectives of this project are to include the plurilingualism that students bring to their disciplines, to create a pool of future plurilingual educators and to increase the number of students who enter the labor market empowered by their linguistic skills in languages ​​other than English.

Fernando Rodriguez Valles teacher
Fernando Rodríguez-Valls, secondary education teacher

Plurilingualism reaffirms the idea of ​​linguistic fluency – of a person’s ability to use more than one language in communication and interaction, Rodríguez-Valls explained.

The project was inspired by Proposition 58, passed in 2016 to give California public schools more control over bilingual programs and develop multi-literacy pathways for students in kindergarten through college, Jefferies noted. At the same time, schools seek to recruit multilingual teachers capable of teaching subjects in languages ​​other than English.

“As students learn their disciplines in greater depth, expand their language repertoires, and practice the academic register of their home languages, they become motivated to become bilingual teachers,” said Jefferies, who immigrated to the United States. United States from Argentina and is a first generation college. student.

Zermeño Campos shared that she struggled to navigate between two languages ​​and cultures as a child – and wants to change that as a bilingual teacher.

“I hope to give my future Spanish-speaking students the ability and confidence to learn any subject in the language they feel comfortable with,” said Zermeño Campos, who plans to enroll in the program. combined teaching degree and Master of Education degree from CSUF after earning it. baccalaureate in May.

“The AMIELA project gave me the opportunity to refine my understanding, skills and knowledge in two languages,” she said. “It really puts into perspective the impact it can have on younger students like those I hope to teach in the future.”

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