Kelloggsville — When teacher Bethany Schutter met her first choir class at the high school, she quickly discovered that about 90% of the students were English-language learners.
“I can understand why,” said Schutter, who joined the district in 2020 just before the pandemic started. “First, choir is an easy class because all you do in the class is sing, but secondly, music is kind of a universal language, so people can communicate with it.”
Still, Schutter wanted to be able to connect with her students better and help them as they move through their high-school careers. For that reason, she is one of 16 teachers who are part of the district’s first cohort earning an English-learners endorsement through Western Michigan University.
‘EL students are learning all of that school content in English but they are also doing the same in their own language. Basically they are doing two schools at the same time, which makes me appreciate even more how resilient these students are.’— choir teacher Bethany Schutter
Kelloggsville received $520,000 from the state’s Future Proud Michigan Educator Grow Your Own Programs for School Staff Grant, the same grant that is funding Kent ISD’s West Michigan Teacher Collaborative. District Director of Instruction Jeff Owen said this would fund up to 18 teachers to receive their EL endorsement.
The partnership with Western Michigan University is a graduate-seeking grant for its 32-credit Master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) program. The grant covers the full cost of the 32 credits, Owen said; however, a staff member can take the Michigan Test for Teacher Certification for the EL endorsement after completing 24 credits.
“We have more than 600 EL students within the district,” Owen said, noting it has increased over the past 10 years.
That change in school demographics can be seen vividly over the past 10 years. According to MI School Data, of Kelloggsville’s 2,253 students for the 2012-2013 school year, about 42% were white, 29% Hispanic/Latino, 19% African-American, 7% Asian and 2% two or more races. In 2022-2023, the district’s 2,772 students were about 42% Hispanic/Latino, 28% African-American, 16% white, 5.4% Asian and about 8% two or more races.
“We wanted to make sure that our teachers are meeting the needs of those students and decided to try for one of the Michigan Grow Your Own grants to help our teachers earn an EL endorsement,” Owen said.
An EL endorsement is needed for a person to become an EL teacher, coach or coordinator. The endorsement also helps classroom teachers communicate better with English-learning students in regular classroom situations, Owen said, adding this enables teachers to connect with students and learn about specific needs.
This is Schutter’s goal, she said.
Better Appreciating How EL Students Learn
“It has been really eye-opening for me,” said Schutter, who started her TESOL classes this fall. “It has given me a look into how it feels learning how to speak English.”
One of Schutter’s first assignments was to learn another language. She chose Spanish as she knew it would help her in communicating with many students, since a large population at Kelloggsville speaks Spanish.
“I had to sit down and talk to a native speaker, and what I found was that I could understand what was being said but I was not able to respond very well,” she said. “The lesson helped me to discover that you need to give EL students a little more to respond as they are practicing and learning the language.”
Even though it has only been a couple of months, Schutter said she believes the program already has made her more aware of the challenges that EL students face.
“EL students are learning all of that school content in English but they are also doing the same in their own language,” she said. “Basically they are doing two schools at the same time, which makes me appreciate even more how resilient these students are.”
The district also received an additional $18,500 from the state grant for a collaboration with Michigan Teachers of Tomorrow. This is for several staff members working on their initial teaching certificate, Owen said.
Kelloggsville is seeking a second Grow Your Own Grant. With this grant, the district plans to partner with Davenport University for several endorsements and initial certification options, such as integrated science, secondary mathematics, reading specialist, and elementary K-5; and for K-8 all subjects self-contained, where students are taught all subjects by one teacher in the same classroom. The district chose to partner with Davenport because all of these options are specifically tailored for teachers working in urban settings, Owen said.