TRI-CITIES, Wash. — Five Tri-Cities area teachers have been selected for a unique online preparation program sponsored by Washington State University’s College of Education to better prepare them to teach the growing number of language minority students in their classrooms.

This fall the teachers will begin the coursework to complete their Bilingual Education or ESL (English as a Second Language) endorsements through a combination of online distance education courses and a summer institute. The new program is supported with a three-year, $700,000 U.S. Department of Education grant, explained assistant professor Joy Egbert who coordinates the program.

The teachers are Andrea Furniss who teaches third grade at Amistad Elementary in Kennewick; Susan Garrison who teaches fifth grade at Chief Kamiaken Elementary in Sunnyside; Gabriela Navarro-Rangel who teaches second grade at Amistad Elementary in Kennewick; Erica Barrom who teaches fourth grade at Chief Kamiaken Elementary School in Sunnyside; and John Castilleja who teaches sixth through eighth grades at Washington Middle School in Granger.

The five teachers were selected from 170 applicants statewide for free enrollment in the preparation program.

The project funds the preparation for two cohorts of 15 teachers each, beginning in the fall of 2002, Egbert said. Because the courses are offered through the Internet, the teachers will remain in their home communities that can be located anywhere in Washington.

There is a critical need for teachers prepared to teach language minority students in Washington, Egbert added. Language minority, or non-native speakers of English, currently comprise 23 percent of all students in the state, and represent 96 language groups.