Written by: 
Erin Cristales
Photography by: 
Gary Payne

In the corner of Rossana Boyd's office in Matthews Hall sits a black tube that contains a banner trumpeting her win as the UNT Foundation Outstanding Lecturer at last year's Faculty Excellence Awards.

Boyd, principal lecturer in the Department of Teacher Education and Administration, unfurls the banner, which features her portrait and distinguished designation on UNT's trademark green background. "It's nice, isn't it?" she says.

The Office of the Provost originally set it up as a surprise for Boyd that arrived prior to the awards ceremony, which celebrates UNT's innovative faculty for excelling as teachers and scholars.

"You always ask why -- why did you select me?" says Boyd, who earned a bachelor's degree in educational administration from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras, a master's degree in education from Southeastern Louisiana University, and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Louisiana State University. "Especially when there are more than 240 incredible lecturers here at UNT."

The reason, it turns out, is that her commitment to bilingual and English as a second language (ESL) education -- particularly when it comes to preparing those who teach English language learners (ELLs) -- goes far beyond the classroom.

Over the past 10 years, Boyd has secured funding from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board totaling $1.2 million for scholarships for bilingual pre-service teachers and funding from the U.S. Department of Education for the Title III National Professional Development Project NEXUS to support secondary math and science teachers serving ELLs and pre-service teachers.

She and her team recently were awarded $2.7 million from the U.S. Department of Education to implement another Title III National Professional Development grant program, called Project SUCCESS in Language and Literacy Instruction, which supports UNT future bilingual and ESL teachers and elementary school teachers from Carrollton Farmers Branch ISD who serve ELLs and their families.

Boyd's advocacy efforts include serving as an executive board member of the National Association for Bilingual Education for the past 12 years, with a stint as president in 2011-12. She also serves as the director of her department's bilingual/ESL education programs and is the main advisor for UNT's Bilingual/ESL Student Organization (BESO).

Currently, she's working on six different grants.

"When I see these students, they encourage me to seek the funding that will help prepare our teachers to serve them more effectively," Boyd says. "The children motivate me."

A passion born from personal experience

As a teenager, Boyd took part in the American Field Service foreign exchange student program, where she ventured from the temperate climate of her native Honduras to the icier enclave of Minnesota.

But it wasn't just the weather that was a shock -- no one in Boyd's American high school spoke Spanish. Neither did her host family.

"I went through this experience of how difficult it is to get ahead when you don't speak the language, when you don't understand what's going on, when you don't understand the culture," Boyd says. "It's a real challenge, especially when you don't have support through an ESL or bilingual program."

That experience led Boyd to pursue a bachelor's degree in educational administration in Honduras, where she worked as a bilingual elementary school teacher. She then moved to the U.S. to continue her work as a bilingual educator, only to discover a severe lack of programs meant to help ELLs.

"I came here looking for those bilingual schools because they were the most effective in Honduras," Boyd says. "But I couldn't find them. None. I moved to Louisiana, and I was like, 'Where are they?'"

Motivated to advocate for bilingual and ESL programs in all grade levels as a way to close the opportunity gap, Boyd pursued her master's in education and doctorate in curriculum and instruction, then began training teachers in how to best instruct ELLs. A recent report released by the Texas Education Agency shows that 908,304 Spanish-speaking ELLs attended Texas schools during the 2017-18 school year.

"My life has been dedicated to making sure that teachers serve children so they can have access to content knowledge, develop English and their native language," she says.

That means sponsoring professional development opportunities that focus on literacy development for parents and teachers in Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD through Project SUCCESS. It means making sure faculty and pre-service teachers receive culturally responsive instruction to deal with the emotional, social and academic needs of ELLs. And it means collaborating on cross-disciplinary projects with colleagues from other departments, including a current National Science Foundation grant that pairs Boyd with the College of Engineering's Nandika D'Souza and the College of Science's Richard Dixon, who are researching if the plant polymer lignin can replace corn as a biofuel.

"My job is the outreach part of that project, which is trying to recruit Latino secondary science teachers who instruct ELLs so they can come to UNT for a summer academy and learn all this new research in plant biology and turn it into practice," Boyd says. "They see all this new information that hasn't even been published and they take the information and develop lesson plans in Spanish and in English."

Looking ahead

Boyd is the first to admit she has a lot going on -- but she likes it that way. She says she's grateful to her department chair, James Laney ('79, '82 M.Ed.), for his support, which allows her to continue to make a difference in the lives of ELLs.

"I want them to see themselves as scientists, to see themselves as professionals -- they need these educational experiences so they can see themselves achieving that highly," Boyd says. "I want them to know they can have more opportunities in life."


UNT's Science Summer Academy, a collaboration between the BioDiscovery Institute, the College of Engineering and the College of Education, introduces secondary ELL students and their science teachers to new plant research being conducted at the university. Boyd handles the education component of the Academy, while Dixon is the project’s principal investigator.




Boyd discusses her projects, and two students in Culturally Responsive Instruction speak as to why they were drawn to the teaching field.



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