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Vol 57 No. 9 : May 2005
Vol 57 No. 9 | May 2005

Attinasi Receives Grant to Support BCLAD Programs

Linguistics Chair John Attinasi recently received a yearlong grant of $14,268 from the U.S. Department of Education to fund the third year of a five-year project in support of the international Bilingual Cross-Cultural Language and Academic Development (BCLAD) Certificate and Master's program.

"We're pleased and honored to be included in the program under the leadership of San Diego State," said Attinasi, a Long Beach resident who joined the university in 1993. "The program provides in-service teachers with an addition to their credential for bilingual, bicultural training. Enrollment in the seven-week program has risen from 20 in the first year to 25 in the second and 30 in the third. It offers four courses – intensive Spanish language, bilingual curriculum development, a course in Mexican culture and a teaching practicum in Mexican schools."

The two summer sessions this year run from July 3-28 and from July 26-Aug. 20. Attinasi serves as program director.  

"The grant helps keep the spotlight on the need to be proficient in another language," said Attinasi. "This is a case where a word is worth 1,000 pictures. If someone is struggling with a concept and you can clarify that struggle with language that connects to their previous understanding, their fluency grows."

The BCLAD Certificate and Master's program offers teachers opportunities to cross cultural borders. Educators at all levels with additional linguistic skills and greater cultural understanding can better communicate with students and families, he said. Since 1994, the CSU has worked with educators in Mexico to provide unique immersion educational experiences for teachers. These programs offer intensive language immersion, living with families, interaction with Mexican educators and teacher practice in both urban and rural schools. An official agreement between the CSU and the Secretaría de Educación Pública del Estado de Querétaro allows California teachers to study Spanish, Latin American culture at the National Pedagogical University and work for short periods in Mexican schools.

The cross-border program of study reflects the growing reality of students in a transnational world.

"It is not like the old days when people remember their grandfather coming to the U.S. 100 years ago and never turning back," he said. "The kids of the 21st century live transnational lives. When I last spoke to children from rural Mexico and asked them how many had family in the US, most raised their hands. For example: a father lives in Chicago; a Mexican child went to school in Escondido. That child's cousins live in Santa Ana. Some of the kids are trilingual. They speak English, Spanish and the local indigenous language of Otomí. The purpose of the program is to help teachers become more proficient in Spanish and to understand the Mexican culture as well as increasing their ability to prepare bilingual curriculum. Many have said that they are changed for life; they come away with a sense of empathy for their students."

Attinasi received his bachelor's degree from the University of Saint Thomas in Houston, and his master's and doctorate in anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1973. He wrote his dissertation in Chiapas, Mexico, before teaching anthropology at Columbia. His next stop was as director of bilingual studies at Indiana University at Gary.

Part of the reason for the program's recognition is its record of achievement. "We have published data in both U.S. and Mexican education journals," he said. "We have made presentations both state and nationwide. The program isn't stopping with the current recognition. We want this program to make teachers better able to work with kids."

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