The Program in Bilingual Bicultural Education Introduces a New Special Education Track

A constant struggle for educators these days in urban and multicultural contexts is how to meet the needs of students from diverse backgrounds. For a small gathering of 15 interested guests, a glance at a new track in the Program for Bilingual Bicultural Education explained how they planned to meet these needs.

“We are looking for people who are passionate about teaching and who really want to change things and the lives of children through education,” said Assistant Professor of Bilingual Education Professor Patricia Martínez-Álvarez. “[We also want to] continue maintaining both of their cultures and both of their languages.”

Professor Martínez Álvarez explaining part of the program to a small group of prospective students. Photo by Nori Kato.


In their intimate open house on February 27, 2015, Associate Professor of Bilingual Bicultural Education Carmen Martínez-Roldán gave an overview of the seven programs offered in the Bilingual Bicultural Education (BBE) program to students who have applied and were still considering applying.

“Six out of seven programs have to do with [supporting] bilingual learning at the elementary level,” Professor Martínez-Roldán said. The programs support multilingual development as well as minoritized languages to support the learning of minority groups. Students who may not be interested in teaching, can opt to apply for a non-degree certification in bilingual education.

The newest Master’s degree program, Bilingual Special Education Studies, or BiSPED, is a 40 point track leading to triple certification in Initial Childhood Education, Bilingual/Bicultural Education and Teaching Students with Disabilities.

The track has developed into a hybrid course where students will develop the necessary foundation for special education and bilingual education while also learning how the two fields have intersected historically. Students who matriculate into the track will spend two years student teaching in different settings and participate in coaching sessions with mentor teachers and supervisors.

Professor Sharon Chang with a group of prospective students. Photo by Nori Kato.

Professor Sharon Chang with a group of prospective students. Photo by Nori Kato.

The grant for the track was awarded by the Clinically Rich Intensive Teacher Institute in Bilingual Education and was originally intended for a TESOL program, but because the BBE program already had an extension option, the faculty decided to use the funds to create a triple certification track. “I think we’re the only university doing this. it’s the only one that is using this grant to do the triple certification,” Professor Martinez-Alvarez said.

Professor Martínez-Álvarez is the principal investigator, for the research study portion of the grant, with Professor Martínez-Roldán and Lecturer Sharon Chang serving as the co-principal investigators. Their research will include how to improve teacher education in a bilingual and special education context.

The three professors separated guests into groups to give personal glimpses into what the BBE program has to offer. Professor Martínez-Roldán brought in bilingual children’s books to demonstrate some of the materials she uses in her classes, while Professor Martínez-Álvarez showed short musical videos. The professors then rotated groups so everyone in attendance had an opportunity to meet their prospective faculty.

Professor Martínez-Roldán with a group of prospective students. Photo by Nori Kato.

While the BBE program serves a modest number of students each year, the past and current students were fluent in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, French, Japanese, Russian, Greek, and German, resulting a broad representation. It’s clear that members of the BBE program not only aim to address the needs of all multilingual students in New York City, but they want their teachers to reflect the broad spectrum of cultures as well.

“We need teachers who believe that we can change the world through education,” said Professor Martínez-Álvarez.


For more details about the BiSPED program, visit



Nori Kato is a Staff Writer and Office Assistant for the Department of Arts and Humanities. She is also a second year M.A. student in the International Educational Development program at Teachers College.