Understanding Migrant Students: Binational Collaborative for Teacher Education across Borders

Interview with Ana Hernández
By Marilyn Huerta

On October 14, 2015, Ana Hernández, Assistant Professor, from the School of Education (SOE) led engaging conversations with international guests from China, Mexico and The Netherlands. This international community engagement is an opportunity built on the pioneer work of former CSUSM colleagues in the SOE and the continued commitment to serve the public good.




California has 112,000 migrant students in PreK-12 grade education (7,000 cases in San Diego County). Universities lack courses that prepare future teachers to address the multiple risk factors affecting the interrupted education of migrant students. In the California-Mexico border region, migrant USA-raised/born students have parallel risk factors of academic failure. A grant for engagement scholarship will bring together bi-national educators for professional development related to this high-risk population. This partnership can begin to transform educational dialogue across borders.



CSUSM’s School of Education (SOE) and San Diego County Office of Education’s (SDCOE) Migrant Education Program will collaborate in a scholarly community engagement in the training of future bilingual teachers and local educators in a binational effort with Mexico. This partnership between the southern CA (CSUSM & SDCOE) and the Sistema Educativo Estatal (SEE, Spanish initials) in Baja California, Mexico builds on a mutual exchange of knowledge and resources stemming from the influx of immigrant students impacting schools on both sides of the California-Mexico border. The three organizations will unite teacher candidates, in-service teachers, and university professors to participate in a curriculum dialogue pertaining to common schooling issues that face migrant students in both regions (i.e., second language acquisition, academic achievement). In this community engagement, CSUSM teacher candidates and educators from the CA-Mexico border will discuss equitable instructional practices and opportunities to connect educational systems impacted by linguistically and culturally diverse migrant student populations.



This scholarly community engagement will prepare CSUSM’s teacher candidates in initial and advanced credentials to build skills in working with P-12 grade students who frequently experience interrupted schooling because of families’ migratory necessity. This collaborative project is relevant to the field of education, since it supports the SOE’s teacher candidates’ goals in working with diverse populations (e.g., migrant students, English learners) and builds pedagogical skills in academic areas needed for school success (e.g., high school graduation, access to higher education). Both regions share similar educational challenges related to P-12 migrant student populations, such as: 1) developing teacher preparation programs; 2) examining effective strategies in teaching language and content instruction; and 3) engaging in transnational professional development that targets migrant/immigrant students, their teachers and parents. The SOE will work with SDCOE’s Migrant Education to coordinate activities with educators from the Sistema Educativo Estatal, Baja CA.


  • Advance teacher candidates’ instructional strategies with diverse populations
  • Provide professional development about effective teaching practices for migrant students with binational educators
  • Increase networking opportunities with community partners to learn about the lives and education of P-12 migrant students


Being a former teacher and Distinguished Teacher in Residence[1] from Valley Center-Pauma Unified School District, I was invited to meet with the educators from The Netherlands, who visit the district yearly for professional development. I had met them on previous Study Trips to the USA. During this visit, I spoke to them about our CSUSM’s bilingual teacher preparation programs and our engaged scholarship with educators from Baja, CA and the Office of Migrant Education in SDCOE. The delegation from the Netherlands was extremely interested in learning about our work with immigrant/migrant students in schools across both borders, since they are currently facing similar educational challenges in Europe. Educators from The Netherlands were impressed by our online Dual Language Certificate Program and also discussed the possibility of enrolling in the courses and possibly collaborating with the SOE in the development of other courses for onsite program coordinators/instructional coaches who offer technical assistance to dual language classroom teachers.

[1] K-12 school districts who are members of the Distinguished Teacher in Residence (DTiR) program identify teachers in their school districts to serve as faculty on two-year terms at CSUSM. As part of the DTiR program, CSUSM will also make available 3 to 6 units of assigned time per academic year to the tenure-track School of Education faculty to assist participating school districts with special needs within their areas of expertise.



This project builds on previous professional development and research conducted by CSUSM/SOE’s Center for the Study of Border Pedagogy (circa 2003-2008) under the direction of Juan Necochea and Zulmara Cline. Results from the center’s research (Cline & Necochea, 2006) indicated that growth in binational students’ academic achievement stemmed from teacher dispositions in: 1) open-mindedness and flexibility, 2) a passion for border region education, 3) ongoing professional development, 4) cultural sensitivity, and 5) pluralistic language orientation.


In this collaborative project, educators shared experiences, instructional approaches, and educational systems. Few universities offer courses that prepare future teachers to address the multiple risk factors affecting the education of migrant students in the USA who are living in poverty, have poor health, experience interrupted schooling, develop language difficulties, lack available community resources, and suffer social isolation (Florida Advisory Committee, 2007).   Similarly, Mexico faces the influx of immigrant students with a large number of USA-raised/born children who identify themselves as English speaking Americans entering a foreign language (Spanish) educational system. These students also have parallel risk factors including linguistic diversity, isolation, discrimination, and risk of academic failure. The community engagement proposal will offer binational educators a platform to discuss issues and instructional practices for this high-risk student population. It encourages scholarly community partnerships in teacher professional development activities that are highly needed across border regions

During their visit, educators from Baja CA also visited the Bilingual Authorization teacher candidates during class and spoke to the candidates about Baja CA’s goals for migrant education, actual cases of migrant students, and the need for supporting bilingual education programs across both borders. Candidates were able to engage in critical dialogue on issues related to social justice and equity that are related to PreK-12 grade migrant students in the CA-Mexico border region.

Through this scholarly community engagement grant, over 100 binational participants will come together for professional development this year.
• Fifty bilingual candidates from CSUSM/SOE’s Bilingual Authorization Program, Dual Language Certificate, and Master of Arts in Education
• Forty practicing teachers of migrant PreK-12 students in North County, San Diego (SDCOE’s Migrant Education Program)
• Thirty educators from the Sistema Educativo Estatal, Baja CA.

Activities. The partners will implement the following components to achieve the objectives:
1. Provide three professional development (PD) events for binational participants, including community engagement gatherings in fall, winter and spring (2 collaborative events at North County Regional Educational Center (NCREC) and the 2016 North County Latino /Migrant Education Conference). The first of these events will be held on Saturday, November 7, 2015 to introduce potential binational projects amongst teachers/teacher candidates from both sides of the border.
2. Binational participants will interact and plan with teacher candidates/educators from southern CA and Mexico at the professional development events and school visitations
3. Bi-national participants will attend a conference to engage with parents of migrant students, support migrant student activities, and assist as session/workshop facilitators
4. Community engagement partners (SOE, SDCOE and SEE) will disseminate information about the grant’s activities at their institutions and local conferences


This is part of a 2015-2016 Incentive Grants for Engagement Scholarship, CSUSM awarded to Ana Hernández, Assistant Professor of Multilingual and Multicultural Education in the School of Education, CEHHS.

This scholarly community engagement follows the university mission to expand learning beyond our campus and into the regional resources. The project is also aligned to the mission of the School of Education in that it serves to “create community through partnerships” and “inspire reflective teaching and learning.” In addition, the CSUSM’s educational experience is to prepare “students to take leadership roles in areas of work and society in the international community of the 21st Century” (Founding Mission Statement). In pursuit of its mission, the Office of Global Education promotes and supports efforts to internationalize the curriculum with our students and faculty. Therefore, this community engagement project has strong relevance to the field of education, teacher professional development, and university support for international partnerships.
For more information about this community engagement project, please email Dr. Ana Hernández by emailing ahernand@csusm.edu  or visit the School of Education’s Bilingual Authorization Program  and the ONLINE Dual Language Certificate.


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