B.E.S.T. Education Project offers training for city teachers

Fairfield University will train educators in four state cities to better teach English language learners (ELLs) and students with special education needs, thanks to a $1.4 million National Professional Development (NPD) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant is one of the largest in Fairfield history.

Over the next five years, the B.E.S.T. Education Project (Bilingual Education, Special Education and TESOL) aims to train about 55 practicing teachers in Bridgeport, Danbury, Norwalk, and Stamford, districts that enroll more than 25 percent of all ELL students in the state. The project, which begins in September, supports the state Department of Education’s Priority School District Initiative for school improvement, as all four cities are considered high priority districts in need of academic support.

“Children with special needs require well-educated teachers, as do children who are learning English in a school setting but speak another language at home,” said the Rev. Paul Fitzgerald, S.J., senior vice president for academic affairs. “Fairfield University prides itself on educating educators to the highest level of professional competence, and the greatest commitment of heart, to serve those most in need of their talent and training.”

The grant will provide tuition support for the required coursework and professional development activities to earn cross-endorsements in bilingual and/or special education, and/or as a teacher of English to speakers of other languages depending on the teacher’s previous credentials. The project emphasizes scientific, research-based interventions and strategies and new technologies to help them best serve their students, said Dr. Anne Campbell, associate professor of TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) & Bilingual/Multicultural Education.

Dr. Campbell and her colleague David Zera, Ph.D., associate professor of Special Education, applied for the grant. They recently completed work on a U.S. Department of Education grant to fund a similar project.

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