NC State student Ana Aguila Velez understands the challenges students face when learning new concepts in a classroom where the primary teaching language is English. Originally from Mexico, Aguila Velez grew up in North Carolina and learned English in the public school setting from her English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers.
Aguila Velez is currently working on her bachelor’s degree in foreign languages and literature, which includes a K-12 education license, and was intrigued by the NC State Online ESL Add-on Licensure program. She knew that she wanted to give her students the confidence they need to be successful, and she felt that the program could provide her the tools that she needs to meet her goals.
The ESL Add-On Licensure program is intended for licensed North Carolina teachers and for those who are pursuing teacher licensure through an approved degree program at NC State. It includes courses on teaching linguistics for Multilingual Learners (ML), language acquisition, U.S. immigration and schooling, and methods and materials for teaching ESL. The culminating class of the program includes a field experience observing and teaching in an ESL classroom.
The number of multilingual learners in North Carolina continues to grow. As of March 2022, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction reported that just over 27,000 students, approximately 18% of the total student population, reported a primary language other than English spoken in the home. Approximately 9% of the total student population are identified as English learners.
“I decided to pursue the ESL Add-On Licensure program because I noticed that ESL teachers are very scarce in North Carolina,” Aguila Velez said. “Before I started taking classes at NC State, I worked as an interpreter for Durham Public Schools, working primarily with ESL students and their families. Seeing these kids struggle and hearing their stories made me realize that they need a lot of help. I can tell you from personal experience — it is challenging to get used to a new culture and a new school, especially when you don’t speak the language. I want to advocate for my students and show them they can fall in love with a new language.”
Aguila Velez is appreciative of the content that she is learning through the program and the valuable skills that she will use when she is leading her own classroom.
“As a former ESL student, I had teachers who sat with me and used an interpreter to ask about my feelings, how I liked my new school and if there was anything they could do to make me feel better,” Aguila Velez said. “For me, those teachers are the ones who I learned the most from. With my current internship, I’m working with a girl who recently came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic. I’m getting to know who she is both as a student and as a person. These types of experiences are beneficial because I will eventually build relationships with students in my own classroom. Through the program, I’m learning strategies, ideas, and techniques to make my class more inclusive and welcoming for all students.”
For Aguila Velez, the structure of the program also provided the flexibility that she needed to balance her academic life with her personal life.
“I chose the NC State program because of its manageability within my life responsibilities,” Aguila Velez said. “Students can take classes in person or online. I did a mix of both and taking classes online was beneficial because being a mom and a full-time student is tremendously demanding on my time.”
Aguila Velez thinks the program is a valuable resource for those who teach ESL, who want to work with ML students or who are currently working with ML students. Importantly, she is grateful for instructors within the program who provide support to solve issues as they arise.
“I had difficulty finding a placement school that was convenient to my home,” Aguila Velez said. “Teaching Assistant Professor Alison Turner and University Program Associate Paige Goos worked to find a school that would be a good fit for me, and I’m grateful for their help.”
Turner agrees that the program provides North Carolina with skilled instructors at a time of critical need.
“Here at NC State, we are dedicated to helping prepare educators across North Carolina to work with multilingual learners and their families,” Turner said. “Ana will be a tremendous asset to schools and their children. She is bilingual in Spanish and English, understands how it feels to be a new learner of English in the U.S., and has now developed the skills and aptitudes necessary to be an effective teacher.”
As Aguila Velez looks ahead to graduating in May 2023, she anticipates developing plans for her own classroom and building relationships with her students. But she’s also thinking about how to best use her newfound skills.
“I had planned to teach middle school after graduation, but my current ESL placement is tempting me to change my mind,” Aguila Velez said. “My internship is at an elementary school, and I’m having an amazing time. The ESL Add-on program gave me the proper tools to be a successful instructor. At the same time, it allowed me to put into practice the methods and techniques I learned. I enjoy how the program allows its students to complete their fieldwork in a real school environment with an ESL teacher and students.”
Are you interested in enrolling in the Online ESL Add-on Licensure program? Visit the program page, or check out online.ncsu.edu/programs for a full list of degree and certificate programs.