President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team includes at least one person—Juliet V. Garcia, the president of the University of Texas-Brownsville—who must know quite a lot about English-language learners. Her university is located on the bank of the Rio Grande River, which defines the U.S.-Mexico border, and enrolls a great number of ELLs or former ELLs. Before she became president of UT-Brownsville in 1992, she was president of Texas Southmost College, a community college in Brownsville, for six years. Ms. Garcia, a Mexican-American, has a Ph.D. in communications and linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin. The Brownsville Herald reported on Nov. 6 that Ms. Garcia had been selected for the team.
I set foot on the UT-Brownsville campus at the end of last month when I interviewed Miguel Angel Escotet, the dean of the school of education there, for a story that is scheduled to be published in the next issue of Education Week. Mr. Escotet said then that Ms. Garcia has been visionary in expanding the work of the institution.
Teacher preparation is an important program at the University of Texas-Brownsville. Mr. Escotet told me the university provides 75 percent of the teachers for the local Brownsville Independent School District. Forty-three percent of the district’s 49,000 students are English-language learners. Most teacher candidates at UT-Brownsville are bilingual in English and Spanish, and they graduate with a bilingual certification, Mr. Escotet said.
I don’t know how much Ms. Garcia has worked directly with educating ELLs or the teacher-preparation program at her university. But she certainly has been surrounded in her work by second-language learners for at least two decades.
There’s no guarantee that because Ms. Garcia is on the president-elect’s transition team that she will land a job in his administration. But the selection indicates that someone is advising Mr. Obama right now who knows something about language issues in education.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.