Building Relationships with Immigrant Communities through Local Cultural Immersion (1 credit)

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***Please note, this course is only open to cohorts of educators from the same (or nearby) districts. It requires a minimum of five (5) participants.***

What is this course about?

Over a quarter of children in the United States are children of immigrants and this number continues to grow. Despite the fact that the number of immigrant students is increasing and schools are becoming more diverse, the teaching force in the United States is still predominantly white, middle class, and female.1 “The cultural gap between public school students and teachers is large and growing.”2 Some may question why this matters and the answer is that teacher awareness and understanding of diverse students and families facilitates student achievement.3

While there many professional development opportunities for teachers on the instructional aspects of working with English learners, there are fewer trainings that provide information on their cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Yet, are stand-alone trainings the best way for educating teachers about the backgrounds of their students? No. Some studies have looked at developing teachers’ cultural proficiency through experiences that make them feel like “the other” as their students often do.4 Likewise, there are studies that show that cultural/language immersion or study abroad programs are the best way to experience being an “outsider,” but traveling abroad is not possible for all teachers. With large immigrant communities throughout the United States, cultural immersion is possible for short periods of time right in our own communities.

This online course will involve readings, videos, and online discussion, but more importantly, it will require each participant to participate in five cultural immersion experiences in their community and journal about the experiences. For example, educators may visit a local mosque or Hispanic church or any other place their immigrant/English learner students or families frequent.

Please note: Course participants and the instructor will collaborate with immigrant parents and community leaders to get input on appropriate immersion experiences in your area.

Will I get credit for taking this course?

Yes! Upon completion, all participants will earn a certificate of participation that states the number of professional development hours completed (15). It is also worth one (1) graduate credit through Brandman University for a small additional fee of $75. See here for more information.

What will I learn? What are the learning objectives?

In this course you will:
  • Acquire information on the demographics and characteristics of students and teachers in the U.S. and the cultural gap that exists.
  • Increase understanding of how reducing the cultural gap between students, families, and educators facilitates student achievement.
  • Gain awareness, understanding, and empathy for English learner / immigrant students and families for what they experience in school and the community.
  • Gain awareness of one’s own culture, particularly in relation to what is experienced in the immersion activities.

What People Are Saying:

“This was a very rewarding class. It has encouraged me to recommit to ensuring all my students are receiving the supports they need in and outside the classroom. Having the experiences where I challenged my own comfort with my surroundings based on language has been humbling.” - 3rd grade teacher

Thank you! This was an amazing class. I have loved the conversation and experiences! I have grown personally and professionally. I will now be more culturally aware teacher. I will integrate things that make my immigrant students feel more 'at home.'" - 8th grade teacher

1. Li, G. & Protacio, M.S. (2010). “Best Practices in Professional Development for Teachers of ELLs.” In Best Practices in ELL Instruction. NY: Guilford Press.
2. Young, R. (2010). International Study Tours and the Development of Sociocultural Consciousness in K-12 Teachers. Dissertation. Quote on page 11.
3. McBrien, J.L. (2009). Soy La Otra. Phi Delta Kappan, 90(5), 333-337.
4. McBrien, 2009.

Your Instructor

Laura Gardner
Laura Gardner

Laura has 16 years of experience working in public education (MD & VA), refugee resettlement, and social work. While in public education, she worked as a district level manager for immigrant family and community engagement as well as a school social worker. Prior to working in the schools, Laura worked for Bridging Refugee Youth and Children’s Services (BRYCS) and managed their national technical assistance initiative to federal Refugee School Impact Grantees. Laura has facilitated trainings on building the capacity of teachers and school systems to engage immigrant families in their children’s education, language access, cultural competency, equity, unaccompanied immigrant children, immigrant family reunification, and refugee resettlement. Laura holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from Columbia University and a Bachelor’s degree in Education.

Frequently Asked Questions

When does the course start and finish?
The course starts now and never ends! It is a completely self-paced online course - you decide when you start and when you finish.
How long do I have access to the course?
How does lifetime access sound? After enrolling, you have unlimited access to this course for as long as you like - across any and all devices you own.
What if I am unhappy with the course?
We would never want you to be unhappy! If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, contact us in the first 30 days and we will give you a full refund.

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