MAILED: Dec. 11, 2000
Two similar federal career-ladder grants that benefit students studying education at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire are responding to the states needs for increased English proficiency among Southeast Asian students and a greater number of Southeast Asian teachers, administrators, counselors and other educators in public and private schools.
While Project Teach specifically targets those of Hmong descent at UW-Eau Claire, the Wisconsin Refugee Children School Impact Project (also known as Refugee Teacher Training) serves other Southeast Asians who most likely fled to the United States in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.
With 47 UW-Eau Claire Hmong graduates since 1989 and 121 currently enrolled, the grant programs, which are administered separately and have different eligibility requirements, also aim to increase the enrollment of Southeast Asian students.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is concerned because data from statewide testing predicts that 70 percent of elementary, middle and high school students with limited English proficiency will fail academically in reading, mathematics, science and social studies, the DPIs newsletter indicated.
If schools provide role models, sensitive curriculum and appropriate ways of handling students behavior based on their cultural differences, students will learn better, and their test scores will improve, UW-Eau Claires Hmong and Southeast Asian program coordinator Charles Vue said of one of the programs benefits.
The programs incorporate bilingual education both proficiency in the language and the culture in the school system, Vue said. They also provide a networking system with other Hmong students in the same setting. The students can share information and gain support from one another about similar concerns or issues.
Project Teach is available to students for a maximum of five years in their freshman through graduate school years, and the teacher training program is open to those students who have been admitted to the School of Education. Both programs provide funds for tuition, fees and books, thus often replacing loans and/or federal work study.
Senior Elicasith You, Minnetonka, Minn., who is one of five students receiving the teacher training grant, is pleased with the program. The money has helped me to stay on task and focus on school instead of worrying about where money is going to come from, he said. This has enabled me to concentrate on school, get good grades and graduate on time.
As one of six students receiving the Project Teach grant, senior Xiongmee Yang Lor, Eau Claire, offered another perspective on how the grant has helped her. It gives me encouragement that there are people who truly care about my education and my ability to become an effective teacher in the community, Lor said.
With an increasingly diverse U.S. population, Dr. Katherine Rhoades, assistant professor of foundations of education who also serves as the School of Education representative for the teacher training grant, sees the need for such programs. We simply need to be more culturally responsive, she said. These programs create a more diverse teaching force.
Project Teach recipient Kang Bao Her, a senior from Wausau, is adamant about her interest in teaching and in helping Hmong students.
The programs focus is for us future teachers to use our Hmong language abilities to communicate to those who do not know the English language yet, Her said. When I complete this program, I hope to help Hmong people in life in the U.S. I understand how hard it is for them to get around in an environment where the main language is not theirs. I want them to be able to see the U.S. for what it is and all its opportunities so they can start a better life.
Another one of the hopes is that the two programs will encourage students to earn advanced degrees, helping them to serve as positive role models for current refugee students.
I tend to think we need to have role models for refugee students, Vue said. They will increase childrens self-esteem to have bigger dreams, to see beyond what they normally see: Hes my cousin, and hes a teacher. I want to be like him.
You agrees. I feel that being a good role model will show others that no matter how hard things may seem, if people work hard and dedicate themselves they can accomplish great things.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Dec. 11, 2000