Angela (Dr. Mooney)
I currently teach in a bilingual education/TESL program at a university in Oklahoma. Most of my students are native English speakers, but we do have quite a few international students. I have had international students in both my undergraduate and graduate courses. Many come from Asian countries and have the desire to return to their home country to teach English after completing their degree in the US.
Our state has a lot of ELs. The majority are concentrated in the two metropolitan areas, Tulsa and Oklahoma City. However, many small districts have varying numbers of ELs. Some have come as migrant farm workers, but others are working in meat-packing plants or doing other hard, physical labor. There are small towns that were 100% Caucasian native-English speaking 15 years ago that are now largely Hispanic, Spanish-speaking. Some districts have embraced this change, but others have struggled with knowing how to meet the needs of their new students.
The majority of ELs in Oklahoma speak Spanish as their native language. Many of their families have lived in the state for several generations. We also have fairly large numbers of Vietnamese speakers. More recent arrivals include those from Central American countries speaking a variety of indigenous languages and some from Pacific island nations speaking Marshallese & Chuukese.
One of the biggest challenges about teaching ELs here is that many teachers are not required to have formal training before facing a classroom full of non-native English speakers. As a result, it’s sometimes hard for them to know what to do to effectively reach these students. There is no state-level certification requirement for being a mainstream teacher of ELs, but an ESL certification is available for those working as an EL specialist in a district.