New master’s program offers pathway for aspiring PK-12 world language teachers

By Kari Dickinson

A new accelerated master’s degree program in UW–Madison’s highly ranked School of Education aims to meet a critical need for PK-12 world language teachers in Wisconsin and beyond.

Launching in summer 2023, the World Language Education MS program, housed in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, will allow students to earn a master’s degree and PK-12 teaching license in world language education in just 12 months.

Tom Owenby

“The World Language Education MS program will provide a clear pathway for prospective teachers to gain the necessary knowledge and experience to become dynamic instructional leaders, working at the forefront of justice and equity-focused language instruction to serve the needs of students and families,” says Tom Owenby, the director of UW–Madison’s Teacher Education Center. 

L.J. Randolph Jr., an assistant professor in the Department Curriculum and Instruction, is the faculty director of the new program. He says he hopes it will attract a diverse group of pre-service educators who wish to teach a variety of languages — including those such as Spanish and French that are commonly taught, and languages that are less frequently offered in PK-12 schools.

Field experiences will be a hallmark of the program, including student teaching and engagement in a variety of school and community settings in the Madison area and beyond. 

“If a language is not taught in the Madison area we will look for ways that students can do their semester of student teaching in other parts of the state,” Randolph says, “and offer spring university coursework virtually to accommodate a range of sites.”

Students will proceed through the program as a cohort, surrounded by peers who understand their goals and experienced teachers and faculty who will provide support. They will also have opportunities to work and learn alongside pre-service teachers pursuing certification in other fields such as math, science, ESL, social studies, and English. 

L.J. Randolph Jr.
Randolph Jr.

“We have a group of faculty and staff who are very passionate about education and are very knowledgeable about recent advances in the field of educational studies,” says Randolph. 

Over the course of three semesters (summer, fall, and spring), students will gain experience in educational theory, engaging students, and translating their previous language studies into curriculum. They will also complete a master’s capstone project. 

“We’ve worked really hard to make sure that we provide the necessary skills and that the program is targeted to what language educators are going to need (to be effective in the classroom),” Randolph says. “We’re also preparing teachers to respond to social and educational inequalities, and we’re building those frameworks into our program.” 

“We know that language learning is not just about being able to speak or to sign or to write another language — it’s also about building compassion, and intercultural communicative competence, and empathy, and being able to connect with the people and cultures that you’re learning about,” he adds.

To enter the program, individuals should have already earned an undergraduate degree and be able to demonstrate proficiency in the language they want to teach. There are also pathways for native and heritage speakers who have an undergraduate degree in a discipline outside of the proposed language of licensure.

Joey Lubasi

“We designed this program to welcome people at various points in their career paths, either directly from undergrad or later,” says Joey Lubasi, the program director and an academic program manager in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. “Realizing that you want to be a teacher and work with kids in schools can be a wonderful realization, and it comes to people at different times in life.”

Students who complete the program and plan to stay in Wisconsin will be eligible for the Teacher Pledge, which pledges to pay the equivalent of in-state tuition and fees, testing, and licensing costs for all of our teacher education students who pledge to work at a Wisconsin PK-12 school for three to four years after graduation.

Says Randolph: “I can’t overstate just how wonderful I think this is — the experiences that students will have, and the preparation that they will have to be critical, reflective, successful language educators who are able to meet the needs of our students.”

Learn more about this program and how to apply.

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