ESL teachers receive master’s degrees after 9 long years |

ESL teachers receive master’s degrees after 9 long years

Peggy Utesh
Special to the Post Independent

Last December was a milestone in the lives of three Roaring Fork Valley women. They became the first graduates to complete training under two CMC grants that provide training for teachers specializing in English as a Second Language, or ESL. Delores Montoya (Glenwood Elementary), Shawn Rios (Basalt Elementary), and Adriana Ayala (Glenwood Springs High School) have finally reached the end of a non-stop, 100-month journey that has taken them from the level of high school-educated paraprofessionals to master’s level teachers. They received their master’s degrees from the University of Colorado at Denver in mid-December.

It all started in 1991, when Shirley Bowen, associate dean of Developmental Education/Special Programs, was invited to speak at the Bueno Center in Denver. After making presentations and spending several days with Bueno Center staff, Bowen was asked if she would like to collaborate on a grant. Her answer was yes, and when the grant was awarded in 1992, it marked the beginning of CMC’s English as a Second Language, or ESL educational programming, offered in Glenwood Springs, Eagle, and Leadville.

That was just the beginning. In 1995, CMC again collaborated with the Bueno Center and was awarded funding that expanded the ESL program to include teacher training. Dr. Laura Marasco, associate professor of Bilingual Education, was hired to direct ESL studies and manage the new teacher training.

ESL teacher training is funded through two grants ” one for paraprofessionals working toward an associate’s degree from CMC in ESL and a teaching degree from The Metropolitan State College of Denver with an emphasis on ESL/Bilingual Education. The second helps teachers earn master’s degrees from the University of Colorado at Denver.

This valley’s three graduates have completed their educations while continuing to work and manage families. “The only word to describe their level of dedication and hard work is ‘inspirational,'”

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says Shirley Bowen. “None of them has had so much as a month off since they started in 1995. They’re like a family, looking out for each other, supporting each other, and making the grade. Even with all their responsibilities, they’ve excelled in this program. Some people might have just done the minimum to pass, but these gals really cracked the books. It was important to them to really learn the material.”

All three students and Bowen are quick to give major credit for their success to Dr. Marasco. Says Bowen, “She is what I call a master teacher. She has the gift to inspire others, a real humanitarian who accepts everyone for who they are while inspiring them to reach for their goals. She is able to build peoples strengths in a way that brings them alive.”

In addition to the seven other bachelor’s-level graduates who received degrees when Ayala, Montoya and Rios graduated two years ago, fifteen students are currently enrolled in the BA program. “In the mid-1990s, there were only about three bilingual teachers in this valley. We now have around 36,” says Bowen. Those numbers speak volumes about the success of this program.

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