Bilingual Teacher Scholars program expands scholarships and eligibility

Female student wearing a red graduation gown and a multicolored scarf that says bilingual teacher.

Oregon has experienced a shortage of bilingual teachers for many years, and Western Oregon University (WOU) has been working to address this gap while trying to help diversify the state’s teacher workforce with our Bilingual Teacher Scholars (BTS) program. 

BTS provides bilingual and bicultural students (in Spanish and English) with an annual scholarship of $3,000, professional development opportunities, academic support, and individualized advising. Graduates of the program earn a Bilingual/English for Speakers of Other Languages certificate and may receive preferred hiring in their school districts. 

WOU has received $300,000 from federal CARES Act funding and $74,000 from Unitus Community Credit Union to fund BTS scholarships. Thanks to the new funding, BTS will grow from serving 20 WOU students to more than 100. The Unitus pledge specifically will create a cohort of eight BTS students who transfer to WOU from community colleges and provide each of them with a three-year scholarship. 

“There is no higher priority in educator workforce development than preparing teachers with the cultural and linguistic assets that match our children, families, and communities,” said Mark Girod, dean of WOU’s College of Education. “Western is proud to prepare the teachers needed in Oregon.”

Another expansion of BTS is creation of the Diversity Teacher Scholars Program (DTS), which will support students who are ethnically diverse or heritage speakers of a language other than English in becoming Oregon K-12 teachers. DTS is accepting students to begin fall 2022.

Oregon high school graduates or Oregon community college students who are admitted to WOU can apply for both BTS and DTS. The programs are also open to incoming students of WOU’s Master of Arts in Teaching (Secondary Education) or Master of Science in Education (Special Education K-12) programs.

The program currently serves nearly 100 students. Eligible students interested in the program must first apply to admission at WOU (wou.edu/apply) then, once admitted, apply for the Bilingual Teacher Scholars Scholarship by March 1. Also, students must take the Spanish placement test at wou.edu/spanish/placement by March 15. Additional information is available at wou.edu/bts.

Current WOU students who are education majors and bilingual in Spanish and English, and not already part of BTS, can become Bilingual Fellows. Bilingual Fellows can participate in the academic support and professional development opportunities of BTS to become a part of the dynamic peer network of bilingual teacher candidates. 

“The program builds authentic partnerships with community colleges and school districts across Oregon to recruit ‘homegrown’ candidates who return to their communities as licensed teachers upon graduation,” said Dr. Maria Dantas-Whitney, BTS coordinator and ESOL/Bilingual Education professor. “Importantly, the program nurtures a professional network of like-minded peers who share bilingual and bicultural Latina/o/x identities, and in many cases, are also first-generation college students.”

“If it weren’t for the BTS program, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m thankful for the resources, friendships and for the enormous amount of support that the program has given me,” said BTS student Cristina Olivares. 

Learn more about BTS and DTS at wou.edu/bts.

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