Rachel Pinnow

English language learners (ELLs) are the fastest-growing student population in U.S. K–12 schools1. In Missouri public schools, the number of ELLs has doubled from 19,053 in 2008–2009 to 38,952 in 2017–20182. Although the number of ELLs is growing exponentially, they have been underserved due to the longstanding shortage of teachers who are certified to work with them.

The University of Missouri College of Education’s online TESOL (Teaching English to speakers of other languages) programs and faculty serve teachers in the state and beyond, aiming to increase the number of critically important ELL educators.

UPCEA, a leading national organization for online education, recognized one of the TESOL programs for their exceptional contributions to the field. The organization selected the Missouri K–12 ESOL certification preparation program as this year’s Outstanding Noncredit Program Award winner. Rachel Pinnow accepted the award on behalf of the department at the 2019 Annual Conference on March 28 in Seattle, Washington.

A global community

Pinnow is an associate professor in the Department of Learning, Teaching and Curriculum, and an online instructor of courses in the three online TESOL programs available at Mizzou. She and other faculty members have worked to design compelling and rigorous course work that prepares students for real jobs, using the latest technologies in online and distance learning — but without making students feel at a distance.

“Language is really central to our experience as a human being,” said Pinnow, who started studying the subject in graduate school. “I became fascinated with how people learn multiple languages beyond their first language or their native language.”

“One of our goals in the TESOL program is that we always want our students to know and feel that there’s a human being on the other side of the screen,” she said. “The program has been unfolding and developing over time. We’ve been able to shape it into something really unique that serves our students, the state of Missouri and the broader world. We are really a part of a global community.”

An engaging environment

The award-winning ESOL certification preparation program is focused on preparing students for Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) ESOL certification. However, the certification “also can be expanded to other states,” said Pinnow. She encourages students outside of Missouri to check with their state first.

The TESOL graduate certificate and master’s degree programs are open to educators all over the world — and to Pinnow, this is a benefit to learning online. “We want to create an environment where you’re going to interact with people who have different teaching contexts than you, different age students, different teaching backgrounds and language backgrounds, so that you can develop a deeper understanding of the topics because of the input of your peers. This facilitates really strong professional relationships that create a network to help you develop professionally and personally.”

“We take meeting the needs of students very seriously,” Pinnow continues. “We want to create a great opportunity and experience for our students. Our strengths lie in the quality of the faculty, the flexible platform and the ability to interact with people from all over the world — which can open up opportunities that you might not have considered before now.”

About UPCEA: The University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) is the leading association for professional, continuing and online education. For more than 100 years, UPCEA has served most of the leading public and private colleges and universities in North America. Founded in 1915, the association serves its members with innovative conferences and specialty seminars, research and benchmarking information, professional networking opportunities and timely publications. Based in Washington, D.C., UPCEA also builds greater awareness of the vital link between contemporary learners and public policy issues.

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1https://www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/data-hub/us-immigration-trends#children
2https://dese.mo.gov/quality-schools/migrant-el-immigrant-refugee-education/english-learner-el-data