ESL Summer Institute classroom
UNM students take the required courses in order to get an ESL endorsement on their teaching license.

For the past 17 summers, the University of New Mexico and Albuquerque Public Schools have sponsored the English as a Second Language (ESL) Summer Institute designed to help in-service and pre-service teachers of all grade levels secure ESL endorsements. In the history of the institute, more than 800 students have taken courses toward their endorsements.

Holbrook Mahn, professor of Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Studies in the UNM College of Education started the ESL Summer Institute when the Office of Civil Rights mandated that APS get more ESL endorsed teachers.

Up to five courses constitute an endorsement at UNM. That can be a heavy load for a full time teacher or student. With that in mind, Mahn put together the ESL program where three comprehensive UNM courses are offered in a six-week period during the summer:

  • Theoretical and Cultural Foundations of Bilingual Education/Seminar in the Education of the Bilingual Student
  • Teaching English as a Second Language
  • Second Language Literacy

“UNM students take the required courses in order to get an endorsement on their teaching license. That’s one track,” Mahn said. “But we also have a lot of students at the masters and doctoral levels enrolling, that want to teach English as a Foreign Language overseas or ESL to adults in the states.”

The program, held at La Mesa Elementary School, not only offers UNM students the required courses, it also features nine elementary classes where they gain teaching experience with ESL students.

“Because 75 percent of the students at La Mesa are English language learners, it is a great place to hold the ESL Institute,” Mahn said, “since we recruit students from nearby neighborhoods. Young students get four weeks of intensive English instruction, which provides a nice bridge from the regular school year so they can continue to improve their English during the summer. The institute also provides classes for adults who are learning English."

“When UNM students learn something in the methods course, they can implement it in their class with the elementary students the very next day,” Mahn said. “We have them teaching in teams of two or three, so if we have a novice teacher, we pair him or her with a more experienced teacher. In the past we’ve done two cohorts because we’ve had between 40 and 50 UNM students. This year, we actually had close to 70 participants, so we added two additional cohorts.

Mahn said that UNM students are getting excellent instruction. “Most of the instructors have been with the ESL Institute for 10 years or more. They are adjunct UNM part-time instructors, some are retired APS teachers.”

This year, Mahn decided to expand the program and made contact with organizations that work with refugees. “We now have students from the Congo, Ghana, Afghanistan and Syria. It really serves a need for families that are arriving here without much English, and this gives the parents the opportunity to go to class as well,” he said.

Starr Romero, a graduate student in UNM College of Education, is taking the ESL Summer Institute this year. "It’s really important to build a community where everyone is together instead of segregating the ELL from students who are not ELLs. This program prepares us as teachers to differentiate for students within our classroom without having to isolate anyone. It’s all about inclusion, community and trust, which is what will help us in our upcoming teaching years.”

For more information contact Holbrook Mahn at hmahn@unm.edu.