Within minutes of her first walk down the halls of Whittier Elementary School in Waukegan, Melissa Ramlow knew this was in the place where she wanted to teach.

The students reflected a diversity of culture that had never been a part of her own experience in elementary school. She found the thought of teaching here both inspiring and challenging.

"More and more students are not just from Hispanic backgrounds, but other backgrounds, and English is their second language," Ramlow says. "They need a teacher who understands how that affects their learning."

Ramlow is such a teacher.

She earned an ESL endorsement after completing the Master of Education in Diverse Learning program at Trinity International University in Deerfield. Training in ESL, which stands for English as a Second Language, is built into the curriculum, and graduates become equipped to pursue the endorsement from the Illinois State Board of Education.

But classroom teachers who do not pursue the master's program still can take Trinity classes that will prepare them to secure an ESL endorsement.

The Barrington School District #220 has contracted with Trinity to provide ESL training for its teachers at Arnett C. Lines Elementary School. All courses offered through this program at Lines Elementary also are taught on Trinity's Deerfield campus.

Under terms of the agreement, Trinity will transcript the courses as full graduate-level credit, making them potentially transferable to other colleges and universities.

Lines Elementary Principal Ken Hyllberg says the percentage of students who speak English as a second language (commonly called English Learners) continues to rise in the Barrington district.

"Teachers need to be prepared with high leverage instructional strategies to meet the needs of our EL learners," Hyllberg said. "EL strategies are good instructional strategies, so teachers can incorporate many of these practices into instruction for all learners."

Barrington teachers will take six classes (18 credit hours) in a cohort that will meet Thursday evenings from November until May, with several of the classes meeting online.

One of the classes ensures that students gain practical experience teaching English as a second language. They will work with ESL students in a school setting for a minimum of 100 class hours.

Because of the partnership, Trinity offers the courses at a discounted tuition rate. Students also may be eligible for reimbursement through District 220, subject to the terms of their collective bargaining agreement.

Tom Cornman, vice president for academic administration at Trinity, says access to education and to a place in today's economy is necessary for a growing number of non-English speakers in the region.

"In suburban Chicago, the need for school teachers trained to meet the needs of this increasingly diverse student population is of critical importance." Cornman said. "Trinity stands ready to help school districts throughout the state to equip their teachers to become certified, to meet the needs of students in their district."

"Higher education is good for our profession and professional learning," Hyllberg said. "When teachers reflect on their practice, they grow in effectiveness. It cultivates a culture of knowledge and learning."

Ramlow says she believes many districts are moving closer to requiring an ESL endorsement from teachers.

"I knew if I was going to teach here, I needed to have the ESL Endorsement," Ramlow said. "I can help the students that are underachieving meet the students that are above level."

For more information about the Trinity program, contact Dallise Goodson at dgoodson@tiu.edu or (847) 317-8144.