Annual Conference Showcases Progress in Bilingual Education

The latest advancements in bilingual education research, curriculum and technology will be part of the 20th annual BEEMS (Bilingual Educators Emphasizing Multicultural Settings) Conference Feb. 1-2 at The University of Texas at El Paso.

About 600 educators and administrators are expected to share exemplary practices during the “Faces of Success” conference that will include opening day visits to nearby elementary schools that excel in facets of bilingual education.

The keynote speakers are Jana Echavarria, Ph.D., professor emerita of education at California State University Long Beach, on Feb. 1, and Alfie Kohn, a Boston-based author and critic of today’s test-centered education system, on Feb. 2.

The conference is important because the need for bilingual education continues to spread across the country. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2010 that the country had a Hispanic population of 50.5 million and that more than 35 million of them spoke Spanish at home.

Gilberto D. Soto, Ph.D., professor of bilingual music education at Texas A&M International in Laredo, Texas, has been a frequent presenter at the conference. He stressed the academic need for today’s students to be bilingual to compete against tomorrow’s professionals from other countries who often speak two to three languages.

Today’s educators are interested in dual language programs where half the students are native English speakers and half are English Language Learners (ELLs). Instruction is split between English and Spanish. They want to see how technology can be used to help ELL students especially in teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

While there have been many advancements through the years, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to improve the professional development of teachers, administrators and even parents, said Josefina V. “Josie” Tinajero, Ed.D., dean of UTEP’s College of Education and writer of the original U.S. Department of Education grant that created the BEEMS conference.

“Everyone needs to understand that being bilingual is an asset,” she said.

Past participants, including many UTEP alumni, have said that the sessions are a great resource for those interested in the latest strategies and methodologies, and they showcase the positive impact of bilingual education in the classroom and the community.

For more BEEMS information, visit academics.utep.edu/beems