Research and Advocacy: M.A. in English Student Bianca Ramirez

Bianca Ramirez presented research at the Michigan TESOL Conference Nov. 1-2.

Tutor. Translator. Advocate. Those are a lot of hats for anyone to wear, particularly when it’s all part of your job description. Such is this case for Bianca Ramirez, an English Language Learner (ELL) Facilitator for Genesee Intermediate School District and student in the M.A. in English program at UM-Flint.

In her role as an ELL Facilitator, Bianca attends classes with students whose English skills range from none at all to being nearly fluent. She translates what the teacher is saying, helps them with assignments, and ensures they have access to the resources they need to succeed. In the course of her work, Bianca noticed that some teachers were uncomfortable when interacting with students who had differing English abilities – if they interacted with them at all.

“With one of my mentors, Melojeane Zawilinski, we came up with the term ‘ghost racism,'” Bianca explains. “You can’t understand, you can’t hear, you can’t teach. Some teachers don’t want these kids in the classroom, and they try to push them out. It happens – it happened to me as a kid – so that’s what led me to my research.”

Bianca with faculty mentor Melojeane Zawilinski

Bianca’s research took the form of interviewing teachers. Some had English language learner students in their classrooms, some never had. When synthesizing her interview results with existing literature, Bianca was able to make several recommendations:

  • Pre-service (student) teachers need to learn from a more culturally responsive curriculum.
  • Current teachers need more direct exposure to the ELL community.
  • ELL professional development should be mandatory.

Bianca presented her year-long study at the Michigan TESOL Conference, held Nov. 1-2 at Grand Valley State University. She explains that presenting her research to educators was important for her.

“I want to put theory into practice. Let’s just start something, I want something to be done. And everyone there felt the same way, they wanted to learn from me and what I found so they can act on it because they have been through similar situations,” Bianca says.

In addition to her position as an ELL facilitator, Bianca also teaches at Delta College and Saginaw Valley while completing her master’s coursework. It’s a lot to take on, and Bianca credits her UM-Flint professors with helping her make it possible.

“I don’t think I could have done it anywhere else, to be honest. I’ve gotten a lot of attention here from my mentors and I think you wouldn’t be able to get that in a lot of places.”

Interested in learning more about the M.A. in English Language & Literature at UM-Flint? The program director, Dr. Fred Svoboda, can be reached at fsvoboda@umich.edu. The application is also available online.