With an increasing number of foreign middle and high school students entering the country, universities have to revamp their English to Speakers of Second Languages (ESOL) programs to better suit the students within their programs.
“ESOL instructors are put in a position where they have to wear many hats,” says Adam Schwartz, an assistant professor of foreign language and ESOL education at the University of South Florida. “They have to comprehend languages across multiple levels as well as accommodate different ESOL students and their needs.”
Every student has had different exposure to English so every student’s experience within the ESOL program is unique.
“The idea behind ESOL is to utilize English as the language of instruction to reach out to any and all language groups,” says Dustin De Felice, a visiting ESOL faculty member at USF. “We accomplish this feat by modifying our instruction to make it accessible to a student from any language background or ability.”
With such a broad spectrum of circumstances faced by ESOL instructors, USF goes to great lengths to prepare its students for the challenges they will face with ESOL certification.
“Students in these courses are given preparation in language acquisition theories, research in bilingual and dual language programs, development in strategies, techniques, methods and approaches specifically tied to particular grades, ages, abilities and content areas and experience in working with English language learners through in-class and out-of-class projects,” De Felice added.
Not all students receiving an ESOL education enjoy the program or the instructors they work with, but many still see the positive effects.
“I hated going to ESOL in high school; the instructor was frustrating and was always asking questions about every detail of my daily life,” says Maria Parra, a medical student here at USF who moved from Columbia while in high school. “ It wasn’t till after high school that I realized that the things I learned while working with ESOL have also helped me to be a better student here at USF.”
ESOL departments may be complex and require more flexibility than a normal teacher’s curriculum, but the goal is to facilitate learning long after middle and high school.
With an increasing lack of tenure and salary for teachers across the nation, more middle and high school teachers are abandoning their teaching positions.
“This semester we have only 411 undergrad students in the secondary education department,” said Sabrina Lewis, the academic services administrator in the Secondary Education Department at the University of South Florida. “The SCH, or student credit hours, have also been down for the College of Education as a whole.”
The number of undergrad students has decreased from previous semesters. Lewis said it will continue to slide, especially since there is no incentive for students to earn a master’s degree as teacher benefits continue to worsen.
“I didn’t like the changes I saw happening with education,” said Thomas Barbian, a USF student working towards a nursing degree. “As teachers, we are already working harder than we are paid for and the government and school board only wanted to take what little benefits we have away from us.”
Barbian isn’t the only teacher who has left his position as a secondary education teacher. According to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, almost one-half of educators leave the field within the first five years of their career. It was also recorded that of the 17 percent of newly hired teachers each year, only three percent are recent college graduates.
Students currently working towards secondary education degrees are more hopeful about their future career paths and the duration of time that they will work in education.
“If being a teacher did not come along with a lot of benefits I would be undecided about staying in the field,” said Kaleigh Gill, a secondary social science education major. “Personally, I think the handful of benefits makes up for the low salary.”
Gill also added that while seeking this degree has been time consuming and a struggle, it has also been rewarding and has given her a bigger passion for teaching in her life. She is optimistic that she will hold on to this feeling as she begins teaching and won’t be yet another teacher who abandons their career.
As the semester ends and finals approach, Brittany Marrs finds herself frequently camping out at the library with a Starbucks drink at her side and class notes spread out as she tackles her last assignments of the fall.
Five hundred runners gathered in New Port Richey on the 10-year anniversary of the 9-11 attacks for a 911 Memorial 5K Run sponsored by the Homes for Our Troops organization.
“I heard a loud bang and instantly I could not feel my feet,” says Austin Burchard, who is now paralyzed after being accidentally shot by a friend on base. He says he struggles daily with trying to maneuver himself around his home. He finds it difficult to reach items on counters and high shelves and has had trouble navigating through hallways.
Homes for Our Troops is a non-profit that raises money and finds the resources to help remodel homes of veterans. Currently, they are working towards rebuilding Burchard’s home so that he can easily access it from his wheelchair.
“In my current home, my restrictions would be that I cannot get into the bathrooms to take a shower. I basically have to angle the chair just right, transfer over to a shower bench and then pull my legs up and in,” Burchard stated in his interview on the Homes for Our Troops website.
After the completion of the race, the coordinators of the event announced that more than $10,000 was raised from registrations alone.
The course took runners through a residential neighborhood. Throughout the 3.1-mile run, residents stood in their driveways waving flags, yelling encouragement and shaking cowbells in support of the runners and the cause that they supported.
“Some of my neighbors were upset to learn that we would be unable to drive down our street today while the runners were out but I was just excited that I could be a part of the race even though I’m not a runner,” says Jean Lattimore, a resident in the Gulf Harbors neighborhood.
Steph LoBalbo, a coordinator of the event, added that the one remark she heard repeatedly from participants throughout the event was how much energy they felt as a result of the locals coming out to support them as they ran in the race.
There were also many men and women in uniform who ran the 5K. One of the first to complete the course was a double amputee who was using a hand bike to compete in the race. Other runners included firefighters, police officers and army veterans ranging in age from their twenties to their eighties.
Across the nation, more middle and high school students are taking virtual classes, according to studies conducted by the Education Sector.
The University of South Florida is adapting its education college to reflect the changes being made in secondary education. For example, they now offer a certificate program through Florida Digital Educator, the virtual schooling system available to middle school and high school students in Florida.
“Most of our secondary education majors don’t graduate from USF with the intent to teach in virtual classrooms,” says Sabrina Lewis, the academic services administrator in the department of secondary education at USF. “However, after graduating, many students are now learning of the advantages of getting to form their own schedules and work from home when teaching virtual classes.”
The teachers aren’t the only ones reaping the benefits of an online classroom structure. Students taking virtual classes are able to take classes their schools don’t offer, add extra credits so they can graduate sooner, make-up classes that they performed poorly in at school or take college level courses.
“USF realizes the benefits of virtual classes for students,” Lewis said. “We even have a professor in the department that teaches online from England; virtual classes such as that allow us to be a more culturally diverse as well as have a broader range of instructors to choose from.”
In the past year, the Florida Virtual School‘s website stated that they had enrolled more than 122,000 students in its courses. Nationally, 28 states now offer virtual schooling options for students in secondary education. Within these 28 states, almost 140,000 students are enrolled, according to studies conducted by the Education Sector.
As these numbers rise, universities around the country are finding themselves needing to add courses to better adapt to these changes in the structure of secondary education.
On top of the thousands of dollars in tuition students have to pay each semester, they will also be charged additional fees for taking part in a campus club sport.
The cost of the club sports varies across campus. Traditional sports, such as football and volleyball, only cost about $50 per semester to pay for the use and lighting of the field or court. However, other clubs, like skydiving and fencing, cost hundreds of dollars per semester because the equipment and rentals are more costly. None of these costs are small, and students must decide if the dues are worth it just to say they participated a USF club sport.
The University of South Florida’s Student Government created the Sports Club Council to help distribute funds to the clubs based on the budget requested by each club. Student Government provides money for club sports, but because there are so many clubs, it’s hard for every sport to get financial backing.
“Student Government gives the Sports Club Council, the SCC, a lump sum amount of funding each year and they determine the allocation for each club,” said Ashley Johnson, the coordinator of Sports Clubs at the University of South Florida. “All sports clubs are encouraged to fundraise to help reduce the amount of out-of-pocket expenses they have.”
While fundraising and money from Student Government helps, dues can become costly, especially if students are involved in multiple sports clubs. Students like Josh Reilly, a freshman at USF Tampa, joined sports clubs as an opportunity to make new friends while participating in activities he enjoys.
“I joined different sports clubs after I heard it talked about at orientation,” Reilly said. “(Orientation team leaders) said it was a great way to make friends that had similar interests as me, but I didn’t realize I would be paying $50 or so for each club to see these friends. During orientation they never mentioned anything about the money we would have to pay for the club sports.”
Reilly said he may have to weigh making friends against spending money paying for sports club dues.
“I asked my mom to help me pay the dues, but she said I would have to find a way to pay for it myself since she was already paying for my classes,” he said.
Many students believe that Student Government could increase financial allocations, which would reduce the dues that the students must pay to remain members. Until then, the SCC suggests that all sports clubs hold fundraising events to get money to pay the dues themselves.
Along with the guts and grit it takes to get through an Iron Man Triathlon, Danielle Cummings, a University of South Florida nursing student, spent six months in training.
“I’ve been stressing about this race for months!” Cummings said. “You can practice for the race all you want, but you never know what’s actually going to happen the day of the Iron Man.”
Cummings swam 1.2 miles, followed by a 56 mile bike ride and ended with a 13.1 mile run. All were completed within six hours and 16 minutes.
Cummings, 24, competed in her first Iron Man competition September 25, 2011. She and some friends traveled to Augusta, Georgia to compete in a race that would take them through the chilly, choppy waters of the Savannah River and over rolling hills through Georgia then into South Carolina. It would finally finish with a run that brought them back to Augusta.
Cummings not only completed the race alongside thousands of other hardworking athletes, but she also finished 15th in her age division of 18 to 24-year-olds.
“Just get to the finish line, just keep pushing,” Cummings chanted to herself throughout the entire Iron Man. “The run seemed to last forever but the sight of the finish line was probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
Cummings frequently competes in races such as the Augusta 70.3, while still finding time to be a part of club sports on campus such as the Triathlon Club and maintain a full course load. When she somehow manages to find free time, she teaches 5:30 a.m. spin classes at the local YMCA, dedicating time to train younger members.
“I appreciate everything that Danielle is doing, from teaching spin classes for me at the gym to putting aside time to teach healthy living habits to my teenage daughters,” says Donna McCarthy, the exercise supervisor at the YMCA. “It’s rare that you see a college student willing to sacrifice their time to better the lives of others.”
Cummings’ goal for 2012 is to compete in a full Iron Man, which consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run. Over the next year Cummings’ workouts will intensify and she will follow a stricter diet to help prepare her both physically and mentally for the more grueling race.