November 1, 2004

Bilingual/multicultural ed marks 10-year anniversary

The bilingual/multicultural education department marks a major milestone this semester—its first decade. The Sacramento State department is one of only three such departments in the CSU system and is the only one that carries the bilingual designation.

To celebrate, the department will host a 10th anniversary reception from 5:30 to 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 5 at the Alumni Center. RSVP to 278-3708 or bmed10@csus.edu.

The department’s first chair, Duane Campbell. says that the program’s roots are in the Civil Rights movement. “Teachers in most urban areas face students from a variety of social classes and cultural and language groups,” Campbell says. “The majority of the teacher candidates do not share the middle-class, European American culture common to college-educated teachers.”

Current chair José Cintrón says that fact led a group of teacher education department “veterans” to begin the push to put culturally and linguistically different students in the schools, an idea that was advanced later by a group of new professors. “We asked ‘Why aren’t we a department?’” says Cintrón, who was one of those new faculty. By fall 1994 they were.

A large part of the discussion was whether to have “bilingual” in the department name. “There is no other department with this name in any CSU,” Cintrón said. “We chose to do it for political reasons, and to advocate for students in K-12 classrooms who were not English language proficient.

“Our number one charge is to prepare bilingual/multicultural teachers to work effectively with these students so they can learn how to read, write and compute in English and their mother tongues.”

But as the years have gone by the department has expanded into the multicultural area. The focus is not just on Spanish-speakers—in fact their second largest group is Hmong speakers. But they also have African American and white students who speak a second language and they are starting to attract more Russian and Ukrainian speakers. “We have the most ethnically diverse faculty and student population in the college,” Cintrón says.

That’s not all that’s changing. After a pilot year, the department is in the first year of implementing new credentialing requirements. The super-accelerated program is designed to get teacher candidates out and into the schools in only two semesters.

The department has also made arrangements for teacher candidates to gain classroom experience. Numerous partnerships have been established with local schools, and some serving communities with a migrant population such as in Woodland. And often they have a former Sacramento State student at the helm.

What’s ahead for the department’s next 10 years? Cintrón says they will be dealing more and more with undergraduate preparation of teachers, working with other programs such as ethnic studies, biology and math in order to target these students as future teachers while they are freshmen and sophomores. For now this will be done in freshman seminars to spur interest.

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