School of Education Receives $2.7 Million Grant

School of Education Receives $2.7 Million Grant

ST. LOUIS – More Missouri K-12 teachers will have the opportunity to further their careers and complete new advanced certifications thanks to a federal National Professional Development (NPD) grant received by the Webster University School of Education. Webster University’s Teaching English as a Second Language program has received a $2.7 million NPD grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition. This is the largest grant that Webster University has yet received.

This five-year grant will allow 120 St. Louis area public school teachers to complete the coursework required by Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for English Language Learner (ELL) Certification.  For this special grant project, Webster University has partnered with three school districts, Parkway School District, Ritenour School District, and St. Louis Public Schools, in addition to two community partners, the International Institute and St. Louis Mosaic Project. This project will be under the leadership of Webster University associate professors DJ Kaiser and Yin Lam Lee-Johnson, who will serve as co-project directors and co-principal investigators. 

“When we submitted the grant application, these three districts had only 90 ELL-certified teachers,” said Kaiser, who is also the program coordinator for the MA in Teaching English as a Second Language at Webster University. “Thanks to this grant, these numbers will more than double by the end of the five years.”

“St. Louis Mosaic Project is very excited to collaborate on this important training work because learning English is the best step toward economic and social progress in our region,” said Betsy Cohen, Executive Director of the St. Louis Mosaic Project. “We look forward to collaborating by adding community, economic, and cultural insights to the trainings.”

“Addressing the role of parents, families, and communities in the acquisition of a new language is vital to help all generations of newcomer families feel welcome in our community,” said Anna Crosslin, President and CEO of the International Institute of St. Louis.  “The International Institute is thrilled to partner again with Webster University in supporting area teachers to meet the language and cultural needs of English learners and their families.”

The new NPD project, “Increasing Teacher Capacity through Communities of Practice to Serve English Learners,” will begin this fall semester. Over the next five years, eight cohorts of K-12 teachers will go through a robust two-year program, which will lead to Missouri ELL Certification and complete the majority of coursework required for a master’s in Teaching English as a Second Language. The project’s goal is to strengthen K-12 teachers’ capacity to serve the language and cultural needs of English Language Learners in their classrooms, buildings, and districts.  The grant will also support the development of a new curriculum to address parent, family, and community engagement to help better serve the needs of ELLs.

Keith Marty, superintendent of Parkway Schools, expressed gratitude to the U.S. Department of Education for the funds.

“The money will provide high-quality, sustained professional development for our teachers,” said Marty. “These funds and this partnership with Webster University will increase the quality of instruction and academic achievement of English Learners and will develop new leaders in our community.”

“We know that due to the rich diversity in our region, there is a need for qualified teachers in English as a second language,” said Elizabeth (Beth) J. Stroble, president of Webster University. “This grant allows Webster University and our partners to assure that English Learners develop the skills they need to be successful.”

“Finding the best and brightest to serve our language learners continues to be a challenge, said Christopher Kilbride, superintendent of Ritenour School District. “We must partner with Webster to meet the growing need of our language learners.”

Alla Gonzalez Del Castillo, ELL director for St. Louis Public Schools, agrees that this grant will enable school districts to better meet student needs.

“Last year, the district enrolled more than 700 new English language learners, which meant that our ELL enrollment increased to more than 2,700 students,” said Gonzalez Del Castillo.

This is the second large federal grant awarded to the School of Education’s nationally recognized Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) program.  In 2012, Webster University received another NPD grant for its Kansas City campus in partnership with Kansas City Public Schools. That $1.9 million grant, which has provided ELL Certification coursework to more than 80 public school teachers, finished this August.  The School of Education also received a two-year $1 million grant from the PNC Foundation for the project “Mind Full of Words,” designed to help build preschool children’s vocabularies in two St. Louis neighborhoods.  Webster University also partnered with St. Louis Public Schools from 2011 through 2013 on a $300,000 state Math and Science Partnership Grant to cross-train K-5 Math teachers to serve the needs of ELLs.

“Research grants such as these allow Webster University to shape the global academic excellence of not only our own faculty and students, but also the communities we serve,” said Julian Schuster, Webster University’s provost, senior vice president, chief operating officer, and steering committee member for grant partner St. Louis Mosaic Project. “We are proud to receive this new federal grant and we look forward to continuing to help shape the education of ESL teachers throughout the community.”

In 2013, Webster University’s program in Teaching English as a Second Language became the first and only program in the state of Missouri to receive national recognition from the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE, now the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation). The new partnership between Webster University’s strong TESL program, three large area school districts, and two community partners will strengthen the instructional and cultural support provided to thousands of students in the St. Louis area, making an impact in local schools and the community well beyond the five years of the grant.

With its home campus in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, Webster University ( comprises an action-oriented global network of faculty, staff, students, and alumni who forge powerful bonds with each other and with their communities around the globe. Founded in 1915, Webster is a private non-profit university with nearly 16,000 students studying at campus locations in North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa and in a robust learning environment online. The university is committed to ensuring high-quality learning experiences that transform students for global citizenship and individual excellence.

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