Maria Coady, Irving and Rose Fien Endowed Professor of Education and associate professor of ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) and bilingual education, is working to rebuild Florida as a national leader in bilingual education by establishing the first statewide repository and revitalizing the Florida Association for Bilingual Education (FABE).

For more than 25 years, Coady has been a member of the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE), the nation’s only professional organization dedicated to representing bilingual education professionals and bilingual and multilingual students. Throughout her career in the field, Coady has recognized that although Florida has a rich history rooted in bilingual education, it is missing a state network for teachers, scholars, families and students to connect with and support one another.

Coady shared that Florida is home to the third highest population of English-language learners, the first ever dual-language, two-way immersion bilingual education program, launched in 1963 as the Coral Way Elementary School, and there are more than 100 bilingual education programs across the state, but no online archive to identify and share these programs. “We have people doing great things, but no way to network or to support our bilingual teachers and families,” she said.

Maria Coady

Coady decided to take action to reconnect the state and highlight the work being done in bilingual education across districts.

Beginning in fall 2018, Coady alongside Dr. Brenda Such, assistant director of course production at the University of Florida’s Center for Online Innovation and Production, worked with a class of 28 graduate students to establish a repository of the bilingual education programs available across Florida’s school districts. Together, they determined from each district’s 2016-2019 English-language learner (ELL) plans that 13 districts offered programs.

Coady shared it was important for those working in and for bilingual education in the state to have the opportunity to understand and learn from each other across school district lines and to build a network that will aid in furthering the success of educators, families and students.

“Florida is a leader, and it’s time that we really lead,” Coady said.

Students in the graduate course worked in teams to analyze each district’s offerings, appraise their ELL plans, review district and school websites, conduct interviews with teachers and administrators and compile data points from the Florida Department of Education EdStats portal to create the first statewide repository in the country, Bilingual Education in Florida.

The outcome, the product, was so well worth it,” Coady said.

To further propel Florida back into the forefront of bilingual education and reconnect the state, Coady, while creating the repository, was also mobilizing individuals from across Florida to re-establish the Florida affiliate chapter of NABE – FABE. Together, they created its bylaws and officially re-incorporated the organization on Jan. 2.

FABE held its first meeting at the NABE annual conference, which took place March 7-9. There, they nominated and unanimously voted Coady to serve as the inaugural president.

Moving forward, Coady hopes to continue to build the Bilingual Education in Florida repository, grow FABE membership and outreach, and spread the word about the impact of bilingual education on student success.

The vision is we want to help bilingual kids learn at the end of the day,” she said.

SOURCE: Maria Coady, associate professor, UF College of Education;; 352-273-4228
WRITER : Katelyn Vogt, Communications Specialist, UF College of Education;; 352-273-4137