Education Professor Collaborates on Alternative Licensure Pathway for Language Teachers

Minnesota’s language teacher shortage gets a boost from new program.

Dr. Cassandra Glynn, associate professor and director of the education department’s graduate programs, is collaborating with the Minnesota Council on the Teaching of Languages and Cultures (MCTLC) and the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) to help heritage language speakers become licensed teachers through an alternative licensure pathway, which is faster and more affordable than the traditional route.

“We have such a teacher shortage, and our K-12 students deserve teachers who love what they do and are willing to put in the work to complete the portfolio so that they can keep doing what they love,” Glynn said. “The leadership at PELSB understands the need to dismantle some of the barriers keeping teachers, particularly immigrant and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) teachers, from getting licensed.”

The PELSB organized three cohorts of candidates who are currently on a Tier 1 license and seeking Tier 3 licensure through a portfolio option rather than through a traditional route in a teacher licensing program. They prioritized three areas – elementary education, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), and world languages. These are three key areas of shortage in Minnesota, and in the area of world languages, specifically, there are a number of teachers on Tier 1 licenses, who are heritage learners or native speakers of the language and are seeking a way to gain licensure while still teaching on a Tier 1 license.

Glynn said many of the languages in which teachers are seeking licensure through portfolio, such as Spanish, Hmong, Somali, Arabic, Chinese, and Ojibwe, support heritage learners of those languages in Minnesota schools. This is why it is vital to provide a pathway and support to teachers seeking a license in those languages.

“The MCTLC has made a strong effort over the last few years to amplify immigrant and BIPOC voices and to better support immigrant and BIPOC teachers in our field,” said Glynn. “Therefore, when the portfolio cohort project was announced, they were out front right away to form a cohort that they could support. PELSB wanted a licensing institution to partner with the organization, and that is where we come in. Since I work in world language education and know our Standards of Effective Practice well and our content standards for licensure, I felt that I was in a position to be able to help to support this group of teachers.”

Glynn is partnering with Lenny Silva from MCTLC, who took the lead for the organization. Glynn and Silva will spend monthly meetings with the group mostly discussing the standards and different kinds of evidence they can provide to demonstrate competency in each of the standards.  

“Although our cohort is in flux, we seem to have one Chinese speaker seeking elementary education to continue working in immersion, three Spanish teachers, three Hmong teachers, one Somali and Arabic teacher, and one Chinese teacher,” Glynn said. “We also picked up a physical education teacher and a science teacher, which was not in our original plan, but after PELSB gave us the go-ahead to help them, too, Lenny and I thought, ‘why not!’” 

“This a remarkable effort – these are native speakers of their language, grounded in their communities and committed to teaching children in those communities,” said Dr. Darrell Stolle, professor/chair of education. “The portfolio pathway validates their lived experiences and their language skills and allows them to demonstrate how they have met the standards required for licensure through those experiences.” 

Stolle said that in addition to Glynn’s role of providing support, the education department may assist in providing educational and/or clinical experiences if needed.

“This will make it possible for teachers of color who would not have otherwise had the opportunity to become fully licensed teachers in the state of Minnesota,” Stolle added. “It’s a unique and much-needed program.”