Bilingual teachers -in -the -making: Advocates, classroom teachers, and transients

Manka Mary Varghese, University of Pennsylvania


This study is essentially an exploration of how the professional identities of a group of bilingual (Spanish/English) Latino teachers-in-the-making in an Urban public school district are formed, interpreted, and enacted. Based on ethnographic methods, this study looked at the national and local discourses that influence bilingual teachers in the formation of their professional identities and the processes of how teachers ‘learn’ and enact these identities. The study found that teachers experienced and understood the prejudice that permeates characterizations of bilingual education in the nation and, as bilingual educators-in-the-making, resisted these. But at the same time many did not uncritically espouse bilingual education and bilingual education programs. This textured sense of their professional identities was mediated by their understandings of their local setting(s) and their personal histories. The mediation was reflected both in the professional development in which they were participants as well as their professional practices. One of the most significant findings in this study is that implicit in the knowledge base of bilingual teaching is a sense that bilingual teachers need to be advocates and change-agents. However, this study found that teachers perceived and enacted their professional identities in different ways. There were teachers who became advocates/change agents, some who foremost became classroom practitioners and yet others who chose to leave the profession. Moreover, teachers also differed in their beliefs about dual language models. These beliefs and practices seemed to depend on their personal and professional histories, the level of institutional support and coherence of language policy they perceived in their schools, and the actual roles they were involved in within their schools. This study suggests reconceptualizing teacher education for bilingual teachers. We could begin with viewing teacher education as a process of what teachers may become rather than what they may know. In this way, teacher education might better take into account and problematize what teachers come with in terms of their personal histories and their local understandings. Moreover, teacher education for bilingual teachers needs to more explicitly address certain built-in notions of bilingual teacher identities, such as advocacy roles and dual language implementation models.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Varghese, Manka Mary, "Bilingual teachers -in -the -making: Advocates, classroom teachers, and transients" (2000). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9965586.