April Dillard

graduate student profile

April Dillard

Master of Arts Education – Language, Discourse & Development

As an undergraduate at Vanderbilt University, April combined an examination of Latin American cultures with language studies in Spanish and Portuguese for her own interdisciplinary major. The connections between culture and languages particularly interested her for applications in language and literacy development of English Language Learners (ELL) programs. In order to pursue her interest in this area, April knew she would need to consider graduate studies but first she wanted some in- classroom experience.

Upon graduating with her bachelor's degree, April joined Teach for America (TFA), a non- profit organization that assists low-income communities by providing additional teacher support in the form of recent college graduates and professionals. As part of her job placement in Tulsa, she was given the opportunity to pursue graduate studies at TU through the TFA pro- gram, while also qualifying for our Educator Tuition Scholarship, subsidizing two-thirds of her tuition costs. The opportunity was too good to pass up.

Classroom meets laboratory

Teach for America gives April hands-on class- room experience while TU's graduate pro- gram's concentration in Language, Discourse, & Development allows her to gain the research experience necessary for future ELL program development. Since joining the program at TU, April has focused on learning more about language acquisition theory and the research methodology used to study language and literacy.

"As a research university, TU offers courses that prepare students to be leaders in their field and to explore their individual interests." Teach for America provides her with opportunities to take these research methods to the classroom as part of her work in a Sheltered ELL 5th grade classroom in a local elementary school. April will also be leading her first panel discussion at the American Educational Studies Association conference in the fall of 2012 dis- cussing the use of narrative and the intersection of linguistic diversity in educational settings.

Research future

While Teach for America has given her the foundation she needs to continue teaching, April plans to pursue a doctoral degree follow- ing the completion of her master's degree and her TFA contract.

"I hope to become an educational researcher who contributes to the development of curriculum and assessments for English Language Learners." She remains committed to educational issues and wants to help other aspiring teachers better communicate with their classes nationwide, particularly those with Spanish- speaking students.