UCO Receives Bilingual Education Project Grant Totaling $2.9 Million

Dr. April Haulman, Dr. Angela Mooney and Dr. Regina Lopez

Dr. Haulman, Dr. Mooney and Dr. Lopez are no strangers to grant writing and implementation. In 2000, they were approved for two grants they named the Four-Star Project and the Bilingual Personnel Career Ladder Project. In 2007 they received the SEEDS Project for five years; and in 2016, Project ENGAGE. These grants all focused on helping certified teachers get their master’s degree, in addition to other related projects. With the ENGAGE grant ending this year, they started to search for calls for new grants with similar goals.  

“When the call came out for the National Professional Development Grant from the Office of English Language Acquisition it was nearing the end of February and the due date was towards the end of April,” said April Haulman, Ph.D., UCO professor and co-author of the grant. “We did not have a lot of time to do the grant writing process.” 

The three also had to go out into the community and build up support from the school districts and the Oklahoma State Department of Education. After getting the support, crafting the proposal into a 35-page limit was a task in itself. However, the three knew what the priorities of the grant were and let that guide them through the writing process. 

“One of the components would be extending opportunities for teachers that were already certified and serving English learners to get their M.Ed. in Bilingual Education/Teaching English to Speakers of Other Language,” Haulman said. 

The grant also addressed other areas, including a competitive priority and an invitational priority. If you successfully incorporate the competitive priority in your proposal, you get extra points on your evaluation for your proposal. The invitational priority is a priority for the Department of Education, but with this, you won’t get extra points added to your score. To better their chance of approval, the three decided to address everything in a four-prong approach. 

Dr. Haulman, Dr. Mooney and Dr. Lopez with members of a cohort.

“We received notice of the funding on September 23, 2021, and were told the funding year had already started on September 1,” Haulman said. “We were already behind.” 

Being behind did not get in the way of Dr. Haulman doing a dance in her chair and running to tell everyone of their approval for a total of $2.85 million. Not only were they approved for the project they would call “NEXUS,” but they received a perfect score of 100 with 4 bonus points due to them addressing the competitive priority. 

“We were going against Ivy League universities and people who had the help of professional grant writers,” Haulman said. “So, we were pretty happy about our score.” 

One component of the grant will pay for two cohorts of twenty teachers each to complete their master’s degree in Bilingual Education/Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (BE/TESOL). The grant will pay for tuition, fees, books, parking passes, and one attempt to take the state ESL certification test. Another one of their invitational priorities was to do a school-wide professional development in literacy and parental engagement. 

“The component I will be working with is called LIBROS (Literacy Integration and Bilingual Resources for Optimizing Schools),” said Angela Mooney, Ph.D., UCO associate professor and co-author of the grant. “A group of teachers in a OKC metro school will participate in a book study once a month to learn how to teach language and literacy at the same time because research tells us this is what English learners need.” 

“This group will develop and lead a bilingual family literacy night twice a year in hopes of helping teacher and families understand the importance of bilingualism and biliteracy.” Mooney said, “Teaching English learning families that it’s just as important to continue helping their children with their homework in their first language is an important step.” 

A final piece of LIBROS is a Bilingual Café, led by a UCO graduate. Once a week, teachers and parents will gather after school to engage in casual conversation in both English and Spanish. Parents will learn ways to teach their children at home and will serve as experts in helping teachers improve their Spanish conversational skills.  

“We will also have a two-way dual language component that will be serving kids of the Western Gateway Elementary School,” said Regina Lopez, Ph.D., UCO associate professor and co-author of the grant. 

Dr. Mooney, Dr. Haulman and Dr. Lopez with members of a cohort.

“This school is the only two-way dual language immersion school in the Oklahoma City area.” Lopez said, “We’re there to support them with professional development for teachers, materials and anything they need as far as guidance.” 

The research being tracked is expected to show bilingualism is good education for everyone. The native English speakers and English learners will make improvements in both languages as well as academically. This school will add a grade a year up to fourth grade. The grant will help support and mentor the school for four years.  

The other component the grant will implement is a leadership component. UCO has an educational leadership program for principals, but the three felt like there was more to be included. They are working with the educational leadership program to include a micro-credential so anyone who studies to become a principal will have more proficiency in diversity and culture and be more aware of the programs in their schools. 

“In our third year of the grant we are going to create an application for bilingual teachers who want to become principals,” Lopez said. “Similar to the cohorts, we will be giving them a full-ride scholarship to come and get these credentials and become bilingual administrators for the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. We’ve never done this portion in a previous grant before, so we are very excited.” 

After the shock and excitement of the good news started to settle, the three faculty members were also struck with the reality of their goal and the work on the horizon for them. 

“It’s a big task,” Haulman said. “Any single one of those components could have been a full-time job.” 

The faculty members are aware of the time needing to be put in. On top of the faculty member’s role in the implementation of the grant they still have a workload to juggle with Project ENGAGE and their regular on-campus teaching and other responsibilities. 

“It’s good work, it’s needed,” Lopez said. “All our surrounding metro area schools were thrilled. The teachers started reaching out wanting to know how and where to apply for the M.Ed. cohorts.” 

With the first cohort starting their journey to a master’s degree this summer the three were eager to get the application out. They did this on November 1, 2021, and by the time they closed the application on January 31, 2022, they had received 44 applications. With only 20 spots open for the cohort they were beyond pleased.