State awards grants to support bilingual educator pipeline

The Illinois State Board of Education has awarded more than $5 million in grants to support the bilingual educator pipeline.

The number of English learners enrolled in Illinois schools has increased steadily over the past 12 years, but the number of teachers qualified to teach them has not kept pace.

Illinois schools serve more than 275,000 English learners who speak 220 languages. They make up nearly 14% of Illinois’ student population. Meanwhile, schools statewide reported more than 300 unfilled teaching positions in bilingual education as of October 2022.

The Elevating Educators: Bilingual Education Grants will support up to an estimated 780 teachers in 219 school districts statewide in getting trained and licensed to teach English learners.

A total of 456 teachers in the state have an educator license with stipulations endorsed for Transitional Bilingual Education — a temporary license that allows them to teach English learners for five years. These grants will cover expenses, such as tuition and fees, for teachers with a temporary license to get a permanent teaching license.

Districts also can use the grant funds to cover expenses for current teachers licensed in other subjects, allowing them to earn an English as Second Language or Bilingual Education credential.

“At a time of teacher and staffing shortages felt across the country and here at home in Illinois, we are ensuring that our schools have highly qualified bilingual educators so that our English learners have the support and critical resources to succeed,” State Superintendent of Education Tony Sanders said.

Funding for the grant comes from federal pandemic relief funds. The pandemic disproportionately affected the academic achievement and attendance of English learners. Here is a list of grant recipients:

Town hall

Former state Rep. Delia Ramirez, who became the first Latina from Illinois and the Midwest elected to Congress last November after winning the 3rd Congressional District seat, will hold her first town hall meeting Tuesday in Bartlett.

The 3rd Congressional District’s boundaries stretch from Chicago’s Humboldt Park and Logan Square neighborhoods into historically red DuPage. It’s the state’s second Latino-centric congressional district where about 44% of the voting-age population is Hispanic.

Ramirez is the daughter of Guatemalan immigrants. Her husband is a “Dreamer,” a recipient of protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the town hall begins at 6 p.m. at the Hanover Township Senior Center, 240 S. Route 59, Bartlett. State Sens. Cristina Castro and Karina Villa, and state Reps. Anna Moeller and Maura Hirschauer also will be present.

The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required at

Professor’s play lauded

Oakton College English Professor Tina Fakhrid-Deen has received the 2023 Jeff Award for her play, “Pulled Punches” — Ma’at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre.

The Jeff Awards celebrate the vitality of Chicago-area theater. The organization evaluates hundreds of theatrical productions annually. “Pulled Punches” was awarded in the New Work, Non-Equity (nonunion) theater category.

The play was developed through the Women’s Theatre Alliance of Chicago and premiered in 2022 at the Greenhouse Theater. It investigates identity politics in the age of being woke and well-intentioned and has received several critical honors.

“I wrote ‘Pulled Punches’ to ask questions and continue a discussion about race relations in America,” Fakhrid-Deen said. “In what effective ways can we fight against and dismantle white supremacy? In what ways can we be our authentic selves and toss the mask? How can we go beyond marches, anti-racism talks, and DEI trainings? And what role do well-meaning liberal whites have in this fight and the dismantling of the structures that uphold them?

“Talking about race is uncomfortable, but we must do it. Theater has a way of forcing difficult conversations in beautifully uncomfortable yet safe ways.”

Fakhrid-Deen teaches composition, literature and creative writing at the Des Plaines college. In 2018, she won Oakton’s Ray Hartstein Award for Outstanding Professional Excellence in Teaching. Her “Powerless Gods” play was a semifinalist for the Bay Area Playwright Festival in 2019 and O’Neil Playwriting Conference, 2016/2018.

Holocaust voices

“Voices of Children,” a communitywide Yom Hashoah commemoration featuring stories of local Holocaust survivors and their lives as children, will be presented at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, 9603 Woods Drive in Skokie.

Yom Hashoah is internationally recognized as Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorating the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust. This year it begins the evening of April 17 and ends the evening of April 18.

The program is hosted by the Holocaust museum, Sheerit Hapleitah of Metropolitan Chicago, Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Chicago, and CJE SeniorLife Holocaust Community Services.

It will feature a collection of songs performed by Campanella Children’s Choir, a candle-lighting ceremony and memorial prayers led by North Suburban Synagogue Beth El’s Hazzan Jacob Sandler.

American Sign Language interpretation and Russian language translation will be available. Tickets are free, but reservations are required. Visit

Autism awareness

April is Autism Acceptance and Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The Elgin Police Department will host its third annual Heroes Unite Autism Acceptance event on April 22.

The event, held in partnership with The Autism Hero Project and community partners who will help raise awareness for Child Abuse Prevention Month, will run from 1 to 4 p.m. in front of the police department at 151 Douglas Ave. in Elgin. It is open to community members of all ages. No registration required.

Youth and adults also can experience a traffic stop assimilation scenario. Vehicles used for the exercise will be parked and not in motion, and can fit up to four participants. To participate, sign up at: …/1FAIpQLSd0X0vTqaktuP …/viewform.

Refugee dreams

Pau and Lun Khai fled their native Myanmar and settled in Aurora a dozen years ago with few belongings and big dreams.

The couple connected with a local nonprofit that helps refugees.

Pau went from packing boxes in a warehouse to designing medical equipment at an Aurora-based software company.

In 2014, the couple’s dream of owning a home came true. And earlier this month, their dream of opening their own business became a reality.

They opened Yangon Oriental Grocery Store on Aurora’s west side. The Asian-themed store has produce, meats, seasonings, and more from Korea, Thailand, Japan, India and other countries.

“I want to give back to a community that has given so much to me,” Pau Khai said.

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April 9, 2023 at 04:27PM

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