Dual Language Grad to Teach English, Chinese
English as a Second Language is a thriving program in Houston school districts, and it’s giving rise to dual language programs for young students who are studying two languages in the classroom. Grace Tan, having worked as an ESL teacher, was the first Chinese American to train in the University of St. Thomas Dual Language Program, the only program of its kind in Houston.
Tan will graduate with her Master of Education in Dual Language. She finished her program in only a year and a half as a full-time student. The University will celebrate graduates at the Winter Graduation Mass at noon on Dec. 15 at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, 6800 Buffalo Speedway. A reception will be held at UST welcoming graduates as new alumni at 1:30 p.m. in Jerabeck Gym.
After looking into law school, Tan decided to pursue her childhood dream of teaching.
Tan, an ESL student as a child, taught ESL at Herod Elementary School in Houston for three years before deciding to pursue her master’s. Tan taught first-graders speaking Spanish, Chinese, Turkish and German.
“ESL students strive to be better and are really hard workers,” Tan said. “They come from so many different cultures, and I like to provide a general support to work with all of them as individuals. It’s a lot of gesturing and making them feel comfortable at first.”
Tan said her first class at UST, Dual Language Methodology, taught her the differences between dual language and ESL.
“I didn’t understand the depth of dual language,” Tan said. “Where bilingual is mostly just speaking another language, dual language is being biliterate, bicultural and bilingual.”
Her advisor, Dr. Higinia Torres-Rimbau, director of the Dual Language/Bilingual Program, was a consultant on a project to develop a Chinese-English Dual Immersion Program in the Stafford Municipal School District.
“As school districts move into implementation of Two-Way Dual Language Programs, such as the one in Stafford, we at UST are poised to prepare master teachers to teach and direct those programs,” Torres-Rimbau said. “Although Spanish-English programs had traditionally been the only dual language Two-Way programs available, school districts are now expanding their offerings and developing programs that use other world languages such as Chinese and Vietnamese. This will create a demand for trained teachers like Grace Tan.”
Other school districts planning or beginning to implement Chinese programs are Houston Independent School District, Alief Independent School District, where Tan is from, and Spring Branch Independent School District.
Upon graduation, Tan looks forward to finding a job in Houston where she can continue to show children, parents and the community the benefits of being a dual language speaker. She plans to begin substitute teaching at Herod.