Championing education for rural communities during the coronavirus

Compassion and flexibility have served area educators well in efforts to bridge the digital divide.


Study Abroad in the Republic of Ireland

As future educators, looking cross-culturally at different educational practices creates an enriching experience unlike any other. This summer, 2018, Fein Endowed Professor Maria Coady lead 22 UF College of Education study abroad students’ exploration of education in the Republic of Ireland.

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Endowed professor raises the bar on teaching English language learners

Bilingual Ed. scholar Maria Coady fills a prestigious endowed Fien professorship that allows her to expand her landmark multilingual studies aimed at helping at-risk English language learners at rural high-poverty schools.

GAINESVILLE SUN: Project Delta–Ester de Jong & Maria Coady

Gainesville Sun
Project DELTA, UF researchers seek to change ESOL education
UF researchers Ester de Jong and Maria Coady were quoted in a Gainesville Sun article about the link between UF’s elementary teacher preparation program and ESOL students’ achievement in the classroom and on the FCAT. The number of non-English speaking students placed in mainstream classrooms in Florida rises each year, and the way teachers-in-training learn to educate those students could be changing.

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7-year study aims to boost teaching of state’s English language learners

After $1 million, six years, and data from more than 24,000 elementary school teachers and 72,000 students, three University of Florida education researchers are close to completing a project that could transform the way teachers-in-training prepare to teach Florida schoolchildren whose primary language is not English. 


Bilingual education professor Maria Coady (left) and UF video production specialist Emily O’Hearn edit case study videos for the new ESOL-infused curriculum that was developed as a result of Project DELTA’s findings. (Photos courtesy of UF College of Journalism and Communications)

In 2007, the U.S. Department of Education awarded almost $1.2 million to UF bilingual education professors Maria Coady, Ester de Jong and Candace Harper for Project DELTA, which stands for Developing English Language and Literacy through Teacher Achievement. Since then, the researchers have been assessing the effects that graduates from UF’s elementary teacher preparation program, called ProTeach, are having on their second language learners.

Now, they are using their findings to ensure that Florida’s future teachers are adequately prepared to teach the state’s growing population of ESOL (English to speakers of other languages) students. The study will run through June 2014.

The researchers will travel to Washington, D.C. to present their research Jan. 29 to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition, which funded the project. 

The researchers are comparing the academic performance of elementary school second-language students taught by College of Education graduates with that of ESOL students taught by non-UF teachers. By analyzing these numbers, as well as data from surveys and participating teacher-graduates, the team discovered that teachers prepared through ProTeach have a positive effect on the reading and mathematics achievement of the English language learners in their mainstream classrooms. 

The College of Education’s elementary teacher prep program lasts five years, and its graduates earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree plus an ESOL endorsement by the state of Florida. The ProTeach curriculum infuses second language learning and teaching theory into their general education classes such as reading and science instruction. 

“Florida has had the requirement for ESOL endorsement for initial teacher preparation in place since 2001, yet there is little research on what ESOL infusion is or what impact it has on learning,” said de Jong, the project’s principal investigator “Our study aims to fill this gap.” 

Project Delta 1

The Project DELTA team is composed of (from left to right) Candace Harper, Ester de Jong and Maria Coady, bilingual education professors at UF’s College of Education.

Despite the positive implications of the data, the surveys and case studies revealed that, although UF graduates feel confident about using visuals for their second-language students and ensuring that all students feel comfortable in the classroom, they are still wary of teaching language-specific instruction, which involves explicit lessons on grammar and other fundamental language principles. 

“Most of our students are monolingual and many haven’t had the experience of learning a second language beyond their high school foreign language classes, so showing them how language plays a role in the classroom can be challenging,” de Jong said. 

With this new information, the research team seeks to transform the College of Education’s ESOL curriculum so elementary teacher-candidates will have more in-class opportunities to practice second language teaching strategies. 

The revised curriculum also shows education students how teaching materials in mainstream subject areas can be modified for English learners. According to de Jong, the traditional curriculum focused more on ESOL-specific materials, but this new change will help teachers-in-training “think about taking the mainstream content they will be teaching and making adaptations accordingly.” 

“Because they are mainstream teachers, they have to contend with mainstream materials, but through this ESOL infusion model, we give them real tools to be critical of those materials and make sound decisions for second language learners,” de Jong said. 


As part of Project Delta, the researchers produced a video featuring Kim Cook pictured on computer monitor), who was selected as a model teacher for the ESOL case study videos.

Co-researcher Maria Coady is producing two case study videos for the new curriculum. The videos feature UF alumnae Kim Cook and Sasha Abreu as model teachers, chosen for their “exemplary teaching of English language learning students,” Coady said. The videos showcase examples of grouping strategies, literacy instruction, ESOL strategies, communication with parents of English learners, and the use of multicultural literature in mainstream elementary classrooms. 

De Jong said they plan on showing the videos to UF elementary education students and also offering them online as instructional resources. 

“We hope these videos and the accompanying guide will be useful for teacher-educators across the state and nation,” Coady said. “We also believe they are useful products to guide state and national policies on teacher education and English language teaching and learning.” 

In the project’s final year, the researchers are poised to test and evaluate their ESOL infusion model within UF’s elementary education program by observing and tracking the influence of the experimental curriculum on teacher effectiveness and student achievement and acquiring feedback from the course instructors. 

“Improving teacher preparation for English language learners is important, as the number of bilingual students who are placed in mainstream classrooms continues to increase,” de Jong said. “Developments such as Common Core Standards make it even more imperative that teachers understand their ESOL students and develop the knowledge and skills to ensure equal access to a high-quality curriculum for these students.”

SOURCE: Ester de Jong, associate professor of bilingual education,, 352-273-4227
WRITER: Alexa Lopez, news and communications office, UF College of Education
MEDIA CONTACT: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications office, UF College of Education,; 352-273-4137

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ESOL professor picked for Fulbright study in Ukraine

Maria Coady, a UF associate professor of ESOL and bilingual education, will embark on a 42-day research trip in Ukraine on March 10 as part of the Fulbright Specialist Program.

Coady will study teacher education and English language development at the Ukrainian Pedagogical Institute’s English language department. She will also lead workshops on second language learning and teaching for the institute’s students and teachers from local schools, and observe English teachers in Ukraine’s public schools and provide feedback.

“I hope to understand how teachers are prepared to teach English in state [public] schools, the challenges they face, and to identify local solutions to facilitate students’ learning of English,” Coady said.

Fulbright is an international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. The Fulbright Specialists Program provides short-term academic opportunities to prominent university faculty and professionals who are part of the Fulbright Scholars Program. Fulbright will pay Coady a stipend for her work and will cover her work-related expenses on the trip.

“I have traveled internationally for work to South America and Europe, but I have not done work in Eastern Europe before,” said Coady, who has been a Fulbright Specialist for 18 months. “It’s exciting and a wonderful opportunity to build partnerships around the world.”


Ford Foundation aids UF Latino immigrant education effort

UF bilingual/ESOL education professor Maria Coady will play a leading role in a $400,000 initiative of UF’s Center for Latin American Studies to develop an interdisciplinary outreach program on immigration, religion and social change.

 The center recently received a two-year grant for that amount from the Ford Foundation to develop effective modules of intervention, exchange and outreach addressing the urgent needs of immigrant Latino communities in North Florida and other southeastern states. Program for Immigration, Religion, and Social Change (PIRSC)–the three-part grant project–focuses on intersecting immigrant Latinos and churches but also ties into legal rights, education, and health care.

 The center is partnering with nongovernmental organizations in the region and faculty in the colleges of Education, Nursing and Liberal Arts and Sciences. Outreach support comes during a highly polarized climate of growing hostility toward immigrants, particularly Latino immigrants. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the five states with the fastest growth rates in Latino populations were along the south, where controversial anti-illegal immigration bills have appeared.

 “The intense pressures experienced by many new immigrants and the lack of social services available to strengthen their neighborhoods and communities have created serious social and cultural tensions in many parts of the South,” Coady said. “There is a clear danger of generating a new, permanent underclass living at the margins of society. We want to see people integrated into communities and able to move forward in life.”

 As principal investigator of the grant’s education portion, which draws $85,000 in support from the Ford award, Coady will lead efforts with local schools to train educators and community leaders, and build family-school-community partnerships based on a “family-strengths-based approach” in Levy and Marion Counties, Fla., and other communities being identified in southeastern Alabama.

Coady has hired Abigail Nelson, a spring 2012 master of education graduate, to work with her.  She is also collaborating with the Rural Women’s Health Project, UF’s College of Nursing and the Center for Latin American Studies to provide training and services to new Latino immigrants.

“A family-strength based approach is grounded in the notion that families, in particular linguistic and culturally diverse families, bring resources to the communities and schools where they live,” Coady said. “These resources can–and should–be used by educators for teaching and to build a partnership with families that benefit kids.”

Her educational project is one of three main initiatives. The Ford Foundation grant supports developing a network of local organizations working in the area on immigrant integration and local civic engagement. Health care access is another focus, with researchers developing and evaluating a community-health worker intervention program to improve health literacy and health-care access among immigrants in the South.

Many of the educational and outreach services—including informational events, retreats, conferences and workshops co-sponsored with faith-based organizations—will be provided in church settings, where immigrants often turn for help and solidarity, Coady said.

A Newcomer Center in Levy County will open this fall, offering bilingual materials that explain how schools work, school enrollment packets and information about clinics and healthcare.

Coady is recognized as an international authority in bilingual and ESOL education. The Institute of International Education’s Fulbright Specialist program, which connects top educators and other professionals in the United States to institutions in more than 100 countries, selected her earlier this year as a candidate in teaching English as a second language and applied linguistics. She has the opportunity to create and engage in short-term projects at an institution or country in need.

She joined UF’s College of Education faculty in 2003 and became a tenured professor in the School of Teaching and Learning in 2010. Coady earned her doctorate degree in social, bilingual and multicultural foundations of education from the University of Colorado, Boulder. 


Maria Coady, associate professor, UF College of Education, 352-273-4228;
Nicole La Hoz, communications intern, UF College of Education, 352-273-4449;
Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137;