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Friday, September 9, 2005

‘Crosswalks’ program offers diversity training for teachers

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke is ensuring that diversity training of its education majors moves into the classroom.

Crosswalks – First row from left: Katherine Southerland, Avril King Smith and Margaret Maynor. Standing from left Dr. Karen Stanley and Judi Losh.

Crosswalks – First row from left: Katherine Southerland, Avril King Smith and Margaret Maynor. Standing from left Dr. Karen Stanley and Judi Losh.

A federal grant program from UNC-Chapel Hill’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute called Crosswalks is helping UNC Pembroke train tomorrow’s birth-to-kindergarten teachers to work in classrooms that are increasingly diverse.

UNCP’s Birth-to-Kindergarten Program applied to be one of the universities to participate in Crosswalks, said program Coordinator Dr. Karen Stanley.

“What got us interested in this is that our graduates were telling us about their classrooms,” Dr. Stanley said. “One of our new teachers said she had five of 17 students in one classroom for whom English was not their first language. ”

The grant will fund seminars, build a resource library and conduct a year-long survey to learn more about future teacher’s perceptions of diversity before and after training.

Judi Losh, an instructor in the Birth to Kindergarten Program, said the program offers assistance for teachers and teacher candidates alike.

“One of the really great aspects of the Crosswalks program is that we can offer continuing education to teachers,” Losh said. “We are bringing in partners from the region’s community colleges, Head Start, public schools, and Smart Start program.”

One of the first Crosswalk seminars was led by an American Indian teacher and UNCP graduate, Chris Conner. Conner opened the 2-day workshop that was led by nationally known experts on addressing diversity in university coursework and field experiences.

“Chris talked about the importance of preserving home language and culture as teachers work with students and families,” Dr. Stanley said. “He played drums and flute. It was a very spiritual moment and we were very proud of him.”

Losh believes that the Birth to Kindergarten program is a good place to start with diversity training.

“Our teachers need strategies to deal with diversity in the classroom,” she said. Birth to age five is the most important time for children, especially in language development.”

Dr. Stanley said the Crosswalks Program has already influenced UNCP’s Birth to Kindergarten Program.

“It has already changed our program,” she said. “We adjusted our program of study this summer, and we will change it again when we receive feedback from the survey. ”

“We believe there will be a big difference in our program and the improved performance of our graduates in the classroom,” she said.

For more information about UNCP’s Birth to Kindergarten Program, please contact Dr. Karen Stanley at 910.521.6528 or email karen.stanley@uncp.edu. For more information about The Crosswalks Project contact Camille Catlett 919.966.6635 or email catlett@mail.fpg.unc.edu.

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