Society & Culture

UGA professor, alumna co-author book on recruitment, retention of bilingual teachers

Athens, Ga. – A University of Georgia education professor and an alumna have co-written a book on a new professional development approach for bilingual teachers that allows them to use acting techniques to explore real-life scenarios likely to occur in their classrooms.

Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor, an associate professor in the College of Education’s department of language and literacy education, along with Mariana Souto-Manning (Ph.D. 2008), a professor of early childhood education at Teacher’s College, Columbia University, co-authored the book entitled, Teachers Act Up! Creating Multicultural Learning Communities Through Theatre (2010, Teachers College Press).

The book, which will be released on May 30, is based on techniques the pair developed during a six-year, federally funded program focused on recruiting and retaining bilingual teachers for local public schools. During the project, Cahnmann-Taylor and Souto-Manning recruited and supported the development of 45 newly certified bilingual teachers as well as other educators who were advocates for social justice and democratic classrooms.

“We were looking for ways to help recruit and retain bilingual teachers in the field,” said Cahnmann-Taylor. “With their busy lives, lectures weren’t going to do it. We wanted something that really tapped into bilingual pre-service teachers’ lives and engaged the body and mind. We chose to use theatre methods to help teachers ‘act up’ real-life problems and work through them as a collective.”

The authors have practiced the theatrical strategies presented within their book with pre- and in-service teachers in numerous contexts, including college courses, professional development seminars and PreK-12 classrooms. The book includes step-by-step instructions and vivid photographs to help readers use these strategies in their own contexts.

The book also serves as the basis for a new course that will be offered at UGA this summer entitled, “Theatre for Reflective Practice in the Language, Literacy and TESOL Classroom.”Students in the course will read Teachers Act Up! while building on their understanding of language and literacy development theory and research, learning to advocate for students and families, developing media and policy awareness to provide optimal learning environments for English learners, and conducting theory-based action research in their own classrooms in coordination with student teaching or internships.

Cahnmann-Taylor has been a UGA faculty member since 2002. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2001.