CLINTON, S.C. (courtesy presby.edu) — Presbyterian College’s response to South Carolina’s growing need for instructing students who are not native English speakers is the state’s first undergraduate degree for teaching English to multilingual students.
Dr. Patti Jones, chair of PC’s education department, said the S.C. Department of Education has already approved the college’s new multilingual major for students teaching pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
Jones said South Carolina greatly needs more multilingual teachers.
“No other school in the state offers an undergraduate degree in multilingual teaching, even though all the school districts say they have growing populations of ML students and difficulty finding certified teachers to work with them,” she said. “So, we went to the State Department of Education and had a couple of meetings, then developed the degree program.”
The program was approved without state revisions and will be rolled out for students before the 2024-25 academic year, Jones said.
“We’re very proud of that,” she said.
Until PC’s new degree program was approved, teachers who wished to be certified to teach multilingual students in South Carolina had to take graduate courses. Now, teachers who graduate with the undergraduate degree from PC are fully qualified from the outset, Jones said.
PC’s curriculum for the new degree cuts across several disciplines. For example, ML majors must complete their education requirements and take at least three semesters of a foreign language in addition to required classes in sociology, including a class on race and ethnic relations and a linguistics course.
“We have a really strong foundation on social equity and race and ethnic relations because we want to make sure that the teachers have quite a bit of multicultural awareness,” Jones said.
Dr. Kim Carroll has been brought on board from PC’s English department to help spearhead the multilingual aspect of the new major, Jones explained. In addition to working with PC education majors, she is also working with local teachers on how to teach multilingual students.
“Our program will really prepare them to work with kids from other backgrounds, which is likely to happen as more students come to our state from other countries and cultures,” Jones said.
The new program at PC is partly supported by a Commission on Higher Education Centers of Excellence grant that partners the college with Lander University, Laurens County school districts 55 and 56, Greenwood County school districts 50 and 51, and the Newberry County School District.
The literacy grant is aimed at helping local schools reach both ML and special education populations in pre-kindergarten through the third grade by putting an estimated 330-350 pre-service teachers in classrooms throughout the five school districts.
“That’s huge,” Jones said. “It’s a three-year grant with the possibility of a three-year extension, so we can make six years of impact. It really can make a difference.”