New $3.5M Grant Helps Southwestern College Build Bilingual Educators, Pathway to SDSU

Julia King, a Southwestern College liberal studies major and Peer Ambassador, is studying to become a teacher with hopes of teaching in the South Bay.
Julia King, a Southwestern College liberal studies major and Peer Ambassador, is studying to become a teacher with hopes of teaching in an elementary school in the South Bay.

A new $3.5 million Hispanic-Serving Institution grant from the Department of Education will help Southwestern College create more bilingual and culturally competent K-12 educators.

Through a new partnership with San Diego State University (SDSU), and other local community colleges, Southwestern College will create a cohort of liberal studies students and give them a supported pathway to transfer into SDSU’s bilingual teacher credential programs. These students will work with Southwestern College and San Diego State faculty to help meet California’s strong demand for hundreds more bilingual and diverse teachers.

The new Developing Effective Bilingual Educators with Resources (DEBER) program will develop programs and curriculum at Southwestern College that will prepare students to become bilingual, biliterate and culturally competent educators to better serve diverse communities.

“We have a lot of students who come here through our liberal studies program, they want to become teachers and we have a great need for bilingual teachers,” said Michael Wickert, English and education professor and DEBER program director.

The program at Southwestern College will create a club, specialized support and counseling for students, give students stipends to attend conferences and create connections with San Diego State faculty. If a student transfers to San Diego State’s program, they will be eligible for continued support from the faculty and staff at SDSU.

“We’re going to create this relationship with our students and San Diego State to give them a much more gentle handoff,” Wickert says. “Not only will they prepare academically to transfer through their coursework, they will build a relationship with San Diego State and their faculty.”

One of the key parts of this grant is to create a sense of community, build relationships and create mentors to help students succeed. Students will be visiting San Diego State, sitting in on classes, meeting professors and attending workshops, and faculty from San Diego State will be visiting the students at Southwestern College during their coursework here.

“I wasn’t even going to become a teacher, I was working in the shipyards until one of my mentors [Ramon] “Chunky” Sanchez told me I needed to become a teacher,” Wickert said. “He told me I need to be a teacher, I need to explore all my ideas, I need to go back to college. I had no idea what direction to go. So part of this grant is to create the new generation of mentors for future teachers.”

In the South Bay specifically, local school districts are placing more importance and increasing access to dual language immersion programs, Wickert said, and he hopes this grant better prepares students for local careers.

“We have to develop these programs to incorporate language, community and culture,” Wickert said. “We want to help students better prepare and help the region meet its needs for great diverse teachers.”