UMF to offer World Language Education major; help meet teacher shortage

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FARMINGTON — While schools in Maine and across the country struggle to find certified language teachers, the University of Maine at Farmington has stepped up to help address the need with a world language education major.

Come fall 2018, students interested in teaching Spanish and French in K-12 classrooms can earn a degree at UMF through the program. Transfer students could start taking required courses in January.

“Command of a foreign language is an essential skill for Maine students in a global economy,” UMF President Kathryn A. Foster said in the release. “This exciting new program will prepare language teachers for service in elementary, middle and high schools, at once educating Maine’s youth and addressing a critical shortage in K-12 language teachers.”

The shortage comes at a time when the Maine Department of Education requires all Maine high schools to offer language courses for proficiency-based graduation requirements, according to the release. 

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The UMF Bachelor of Science in World Language Education program responds to that shortage of language teachers. The shortage is felt not only in Maine but nationally, said Katherine Yardley, associate provost and dean of the College of Education, Health and Rehabilitation at UMF.

“We’re very excited to serve our school partners and to help get students excited about languages,” she said.

The new program is not only intended for students here. UMF hopes to attract students from other states in response to the need for language teachers, she said.

The program was developed over the past year in response to requests made by a UMF Education Advisory Panel consisting of school principals, superintendents and curriculum counselors. 

“UMF has received calls from school districts seeking language teachers and we had to respond that we didn’t offer that program,” she said.

The university is also responding to school districts that have had to eliminate language programs in the younger grades because of a lack of certified teachers, she said.

Since the University of Southern Maine eliminated its world language program in 2014, because of budget cuts, the University of Maine in Orono has been the only public college offering a language education program. Only a few new teachers graduate from the program each year.

UMF already has the faculty and structure in place for the program to begin with these two languages. Introductory and upper-level courses are offered, she said. Also available are courses that help prospective teachers learn about the culture and history of Spanish- and French-speaking countries. 

UMF will partner with the University of Maine for a world language method course delivered online from Orono, Yardley said.

Students will have opportunities to gain classroom experience through the program.

Although not a requirement of the program, UMF also helps students explore travel opportunities. It could be incorporated into the course of study, she said. 

Two UMF students have already transferred into the program since it was recently announced, she said. Some students already have a background in French and Spanish. 

For more information, visit the UMF website at https://www.umf.maine.edu/majors-academics/world-language-education/.

abryant@sunmediagroup.net

UMF assistant professor of French Olivia Donaldson, standing at far right, and her teaching assistant work one on one with students mastering the French language. (UMF photo)

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