$2.9 million grant to provide educational opportunities for educators of multilingual learners in Birmingham-area K-12 school systems

This project aims to strengthen educators’ abilities to work and provide resources and opportunities for multilingual learners in K-12 school systems in Alabama.
Written by: Chelsea Eytel
Media contact: Alicia Rohan

Stream Josie Prado 6Josephine Prado, Ph.D.Josephine Prado, Ph.D., assistant professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Education, has received a National Professional Development Program grant from the Office of English Language Acquisition within the United States Department of Education. The grant aims to strengthen teachers in targeted K-12 Birmingham, Alabama, school districts by providing resources, education and community-building opportunities for the growing multilingual population in the area.

The $2.9 million grant, titled EMPOWER, will operate for the next five years to recruit and develop culturally responsive skills in teachers and those interested in pursuing a career in teaching English as a second language. The grant will partner with seven school districts within a 30-mile radius of UAB to recruit eligible employees who wish to earn their Master of Arts degree in education in English as a second language and eligibility for Alabama teaching certification in ESL.

EMPOWER: Equity for Multilingual learners by Providing Opportunities for family engagement through Web access and Educational Resources. The name highlights the grant’s goals to expand educational opportunities for families and their school-age children who speak a language other than English.

The grant aims to recruit 20 practicing teachers in three cohorts over the next five years. The first cohort will start in January 2023. In addition, the program will recruit a smaller number of school employees with a four-year non-education degree to earn their master’s degree through the Alternative Master’s Program with a focus on ESL, making them eligible to seek initial certification in ESL.

EMPOWER will provide tuition support covering 80 percent of the coursework for all three cohorts of students seeking a traditional master’s degree and pay 100 percent tuition for cohort members in the Alternative Master’s Program.

Additionally, Prado and her colleagues will introduce professional development in partnering schools and lead an initiative with Birmingham Public Library. The partnership with Birmingham Public Library will expand their bilingual book collection and technological resources for multilingual, multicultural families. The library will provide a local meeting space for UAB students and multilingual families to meet and learn from each other with the goal of multilingual families’ strengthening their sense of community belonging.

“I am excited to bring EMPOWER to the Birmingham area and the quickly expanding multilingual community here in the state,” Prado said. “Through our work, we hope to help young children and their families feel ready for the U.S. school system, which may be culturally different from theirs, while also preparing teachers for the diverse needs of multilingual learners. By sharing new and different perspectives, we intend to empower both teachers and families to bridge cultural and linguistic gaps so everyone’s voice is heard and understood.”

To participate in the grant program, candidates must be a full-time employee at one of the partnering school districts. To inquire and learn more about EMPOWER, please contact Prado at jprado@uab.edu.

Partner school districts include Alabaster City Schools, Birmingham City Schools, Jefferson County Schools, Hoover City Schools, Pelham City Schools, Shelby County Schools and Tarrant City Schools.