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Language teacher program honored for global engagement

image of students from Illinois State's Languages, Literatures, and Cultures work with students from Unity Community Center.

Students from Illinois State's Languages, Literatures, and Cultures work with students from Unity Community Center.

Illinois State University’s language teacher education program is one of the few language programs across the country recognized for global engagement by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).

ACTFL recently featured the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures’ teacher education program as part of its inaugural Global Engagement Initiative, which honors programs that actively engaged students in using the language beyond the classroom. Only 11 programs in the nation were recognized this year, four in the state of Illinois. This recognition will last until 2019.

Illinois State students studying to be teachers in Spanish, French, and German work closely with the local Unity Community Center, which serves a multicultural population that includes French- and Spanish-speaking families. The students connect with Unity through a course taught by Coordinator of Teacher Education for the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures Susan Hildebrandt, who is also associate professor of Spanish and applied linguistics. “Teacher candidates work at Unity throughout the semester and get to know the Unity youth before teaching seven weeks of beginning language lessons the second half of the semester,” said Hildebrandt.

Students also serve as translators during parent-teacher conferences at Unity. “These valuable experiences with youth, parents, and classmates open teacher candidates’ eyes to a variety of perspectives that they wouldn’t otherwise get in their educational preparation,” said Hildebrandt. “And youth, families, and personnel gain quality early language instruction that they would not have without the program.”

Hildebrandt created the course with the help of an Illinois State’s Scholarship of Teaching and Learning University Research Grant, and input from the American Democracy Project. Language teacher candidates have taught at Unity almost every semester since the spring 2012 semester. Unity awarded the teacher education program in 2013, 2014, and 2015 with a Distinguished Program Award.

For more information on the program, contact Associate Professor Hildebrandt at

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