In Minnesota, nearly 150,000 students speak a primary language other than English at home, with the top five being Spanish, Somali, Hmong, Karen, and Vietnamese.
Yet many of these languages are not commonly used, taught, or valued in school—despite overwhelming evidence that heritage language study can help students not only to progress academically, but also to develop a sense of identity, belonging, and connection to their community.
Part of the challenge is that there are currently no licensure programs for educators of many of these languages. We are working with a group of teachers of heritage languages, namely Hmong and Somali, to create and clear alternative licensure pathways. The two primary pathways currently are through the “Portfolio Licensure” process as well as the experience-based “Tier 2 to Tier 3” pathway.
Specifically, we’re helping teachers to understand the state laws governing these processes; navigate relationships at the MN Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB); and work through the Portfolio Licensure and the Tier 2 to 3 process.
Our end goal is both to help an initial group of heritage language teachers obtain licensure, but also clear the barnacles from these pathways so that diverse, qualified teachers can access them—across licensure areas.