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Proviso Township High Schools District 209 officials recently announced that they’ve partnered with an area college to offer more bilingual training and certification to teachers in the district.

In a statement released Feb. 14, D209 officials said they’ve secured a partnership with the School of Education at Dominican University in River Forest to offer state teaching endorsements in English as a Second Language and Bilingual Education to district teachers.

So far, 21 teachers from a variety of content areas — including English, special education, math, science, family & consumer education, physical education, driver’s education, and health education — have registered to take an 18-credit, three-semester program that began on Jan. 10.

In a follow-up statement in response to questions about the program’s cost, district officials said the program is provided “at a reduced cost” to teachers.

“The district is covering program costs through local, federal and matching grant dollars,” officials said, adding that the program is a way to mitigate a chronic problem within the district: trying to find qualified bilingual teachers “due to a mass shortage, fewer people choosing teaching careers” and the “exponential” growth of learners who come from homes where the first language spoken is not English.

“We have amazing talent right here in our district in teachers who already know these kids. Why wouldn’t we capitalize on our own strengths?” said Tony Brazouski, D209’s assistant superintendent of human resources, athletics, and safety.

In the statement, D209 officials said Colleen Reardon, director of Dominican’s School of Education, and Ben Mueller, senior graduate marketing and recruiting coordinator, spearheaded the effort to create the program.

Officials said Reardon and Mueller have also “opened the door to other continued partnerships including a joint grant to address further teacher shortages and a site visit to [Proviso Math and Science Academy] in late November by a Chinese delegation of educators through the university.”

D209 Supt. Jesse Rodriguez said in the statement that the district recognizes “the need of our community and look forward to the opportunity of providing exemplary services to all students through partnerships.”