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Central Texas bilingual and ELS teachers honored in midst of staffing shortage

Posted at 8:38 PM, May 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-17 21:38:00-04

WACO, Texas — Education Service Center Region 12 honored bilingual and English-as-a-second-language (ELS) teachers on Wednesday as the need for more staffing in the area grows.

Region 12 hosted its first-ever 'BESA Awards' banquet, acknowledging the work done by 31 teachers around Central Texas.

According to a study by the University of Houston, in 2020, there was just one bilingual or ELS teacher for every 46 students participating in a program.

"We have districts that want to begin and grow their ESL and bilingual programs, but they may not have the teaching staff to grow the way they want to," said Region 12 coordinator Amberly Walker.

Educators believe that need could continue to grow as the population of Central Texas grows.

One of the educators awarded on Wednesday, Krisol Villa Flores, of Waco ISD, said she understands how critical the need for bilingual and ELS teachers is, as English was not her first language.

"I put myself in their shoes and all the challenges we have when we come to this country," she said.

The shortage hits districts of all sizes. Marlin ISD, which has fewer than 900 students, has an ELS student population of 176, according to Sharon Deloach, director of student services.

Region 12 provides districts with assistance in developing their bilingual and ELS programs.

The TEA classifies 19,238 students, or 11%, of Region 12 schools as "emergent bilingual", or developing their English language as well as their home language.

Region 12 consists of McLennan, Bell, Mills, Hamilton, Lampasas, Bosque, Coryell, Hill, Navarro, Limestone, Falls and Freestone counties.

Within those boundaries, students speak over 100 different languages, according to Region 12.