Junior Kylie Bray Accepted to Teach at the 2021 Breakthrough Cincinnati Program
- Joseph Shoulders
- Friday, April 2nd, 2021
Kylie Bray, a junior at WKU, has been accepted onto the teaching team for the 2021 Breakthrough Cincinnati program. Bray is a Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) minor from Bowling Green, Ky., and she is majoring in Elementary Education and Special Education.
Breakthrough is a program hosted in urban school districts around the United States for middle and high school students who want to go to college but are in demographics that are underrepresented in admissions (i.e., a minority group, a low-income family, a single-parent household, or first-generation students). The students accepted into the program attend school during the summer to stay engaged in academics. Bray will be teaching in Cincinnati in courses such as Literature, Arts, History, German, Gardening, and 9th Grade Leadership.
Bray entered WKU with the goal of working in the education system. “The reason why I want to pursue education is to use that to create opportunities for all people,” she said. “Through my experiences, I have seen how not everyone is receiving the same education. Because of that, not everyone is given equal opportunities. The more that I have been in the education system, the more I see how we are failing some students [and] leaving them behind in a vicious cycle of poverty. We need to change the system to give them better opportunities.”
Bray noticed the disparities in education while volunteering in the Calvary Baptist Church’s Cave Springs Ministry Outreach, which invited children of refugees to come to the church for tutoring and assistance with homework. “I learned that the educational system is not catered to what English Language Learners need,” Bray said.
When Bray took ENG 300: Writing in the Disciplines, she decided to explore an issue in the education of English Language Learners (ELL). Her research project discussed how ELL students are often incorrectly placed in special education because many educators cannot differentiate between language difficulties and learning disabilities. Bray’s research indicated that the solution to the issue was to better prepare general education teachers to teach ELL students. Since she wishes to be an effective teacher, Bray added the TESOL minor. She stated, “If my research is saying it is necessary, I need to be responsible and prepare myself for my future.”
Bray developed her research project into her Honors Thesis: “Investigating Special Education Services for Elementary English Language Learners within the South-Central US: A Survey of General Elementary and Special Education Teachers.” For her ENG 300 research project, Bray interviewed several educators in Bowling Green, and they argued that ELL students are underrepresented in special education, contrary to what she thought. To learn more about how education systems are catering to ELL students, Bray sent surveys to schools in rural and urban regions. Her thesis analyzes the trends on issues such as whether the schools are sending ELLs to special education too early or too late and if the schools have enough resources to help students acquire English. “Working on this project has given me more of a passion to help ELLs in general education,” Bray said. “It has helped me see where the system is not working and what I will not let happen in my classroom.”
Bray expressed how her TESOL minor has helped her prepare to teach. “I have loved my TESOL minor experiences because they have pushed me to become a better teacher. They have taught me how to adapt information for someone who does not know English,” she said. Bray noted she applies concepts she learned in her TESOL classes to the English as a Second Language classes she is currently teaching. She listed examples such as teaching people how to pronounce unfamiliar phonemes, using cognates in a productive way, and relying on visuals to convey information. Bray stated that she believes all teachers should understand these concepts to support their ELL students.
Bray also said that her TESOL classes have helped her become a better student. In several courses, she wrote extensively for different purposes, and this trained her to better articulate her thoughts. Another skill she learned was “how to take research, understand it, and apply it to different situations.”
After graduating, Bray aims to become a teacher and build experience in order to move into education administration. She characterized her goal as understanding issues by seeing and feeling them and then acting on the issues. Bray hopes to advocate for change in the education system to better cater to the needs of different demographics of students.