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Sole ESL minor reflects on learning experiences

| Thursday, March 28, 2019

The junior class at Saint Mary’s has a small number of students that are pursuing Elementary Education majors. However, out of all those students, Mary Stechschulte, is the only one who chose to also participate in English as a Second Language as her required minor.

All Elementary Education majors are required to minor in something, but English as a Second Language is one of the four minors that provide students licensure to teach in Indiana upon completion. The other three are Mild Intervention, Reading and Early Childhood.

“I studied French for 13 years, Spanish for two years and I dabbled into a very small amount of Arabic,” Stechschulte said. “The whole point of the minor is that I do not know how to speak any other language fluently.”

Stechschulte originally started off as an Elementary Education major with minors in Spanish and history.

“Spanish did not really fit into my schedule freshman year,” Stechschulte said. “They never really told us about the English as a Second Language, but I asked the right questions and found out about it.”

Stechschulte said the minor focuses on helping train students in the context of classrooms whose first languages are not English.

“It teaches how to reach students on different levels while still being respectful,” Stechschulte said. “It is all about cultural competence and making students feel welcome while still helping them learn important techniques.”

Saint Mary’s professor Susan Devetski, who started teaching in the College’s education department last semester, said students learn how to teach children and how to embrace diversity in the classroom through this program.

“The English learners at elementary and high school are from diverse backgrounds and speak a variety of languages, so teachers need not speak their language, but rather be open and willing to learn to teach English,” Devetski said.

This minor not only allows individuals opportunities to learn in a classroom setting, but also to have real life experiences in local schools.

“I have a new placement every semester at different schools,” Stechschulte said. “In this past fall semester, I was placed in a school that was mainly composed of Spanish-speaking children, while this semester there is more diversity in the school I am placed at.”

Devetski teaches two courses and supervises English as a Second Language students while they work in the field.

“Field experience is a strong part of the program,” Devetski said. “Students attend cultural experiences on and off campus to expand their own thinking and understanding.”

In the United States, Devetski said, there is a very high need for teachers who are trained and certified in ESL, as the number of English learners continues to grow in elementary, middle and high schools.

“The minor is excellent for education majors, and others interested should contact advisors to see if it is possible,” Devetski said.

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