Loyola University Chicago

School of Education

Preparing the Next Generation of ELL Teachers

Preparing the Next Generation of ELL Teachers

Amy Heineke grew up in a family of teachers. Now, as an assistant professor in Loyola’s School of Education, she’s getting the next generation of teachers  for English Language Learners ready for the classroom. 

Talk a little bit about the classes you teach.

“I help prepare teachers so that they can teach English language learners—students whose native language is something other than English. In Chicago and the suburbs, we have a huge number of students who are not native English speakers. So our programs are very popular because teachers are out in the classrooms, and they see the need to get this specific preparation for these students.”

You also conduct research, too, correct?

“I do. It’s very related to my teaching, as it looks at different approaches to prepare teachers who are working with English language learners. These students bring such diverse backgrounds, abilities, and needs to the classroom, that it’s really important to find ways to support them.  What I've found is that teachers do indeed need specific preparation for English language learners, and they need to work with them as individual students, rather than take a one-size-fits-all method from a textbook." (Read more about Professor Heineke’s research.)

How did you get involved in bilingual education?

“I was a Spanish major in college and lived in South America and was very passionate about the language. After graduation, I moved to Arizona and taught kindergarten and first grade. I loved it, but I also quickly recognized the lack of training you receive to deal with students who are still learning English. As I moved through my graduate studies, I focused more on preparing teachers—and here I am.”

Have you always wanted to teach?

“I come from a family of teachers. My mom and dad both taught for more than 40 years. My sister is a teacher, my aunts are teachers, and most of my cousins teach too. I’ve always been surrounded by teachers. Growing up, I really didn’t know that other careers existed, since everyone I knew was a teacher.”

What’s your favorite part about teaching?

“I tell everyone that they should teach kindergarten at least once; it’s such an amazing experience. You get a chance to mold these little minds and see the progress that they make from Day 1 to Day 180. At Loyola, it’s the same thing. You don’t teach unless you love the students, and the students here are fantastic. They’re smart, they’re driven, they’re ready to get out there and change the world. It’s great.”

And the biggest challenge?

“Time, or the lack of time. If I could, I would spend every hour of my day putting it toward designing a class to push my students. That same challenge absolutely applies to elementary school teachers. When I was teaching kindergarten, I’d stay in my class until 6, planning for the next day. I’d have all these plans to go home and do even more prepping, but I’d be out cold on the couch at 7, completely wiped out from chasing around a class full of kindergarteners.” 

Any hobbies or interests outside the classroom that keep you busy?

“I have two dogs, and I’m involved in a few different dog-related charities. I also like to travel, especially to Spanish-speaking countries, because it gives me an excuse to practice my Spanish. Of course since I’m from Wisconsin, I’m a huge Packers fan. So once football season starts, that will take up all of my spare time on weekends. Teaching and the Packers—that pretty much sums it up for me.”

Learn more about Bilingual/Bicultural Education

About the professor

Name: Amy Heineke

Title: Assistant professor, bilingual/bicultural education

Hometown: Grew up in southern Wisconsin; now lives in Chicago

Professor at Loyola since: 2010

Courses taught: Assessment of ELL/Bilingual Students (CIEP 474); Culturally Relevant Literature for Children and Adolescents (CIEP 503); Applied Linguistics for Teachers (CIEP 504)