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UTB Doctoral Graduate Earns Top Recognition for Dissertation

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – FEBRUARY 1, 2012 – Dr. Mario Ferron will be honored with the first place doctoral dissertation award by the National Association of Bilingual Education at its annual conference to be held mid-February in Dallas.

Dr. Mario FerronFerron received his Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with bilingual emphasis specialization in December 2011 from The University of Texas at Brownsville. The NABE award is for his dissertation, “The Educational Effects of Implementing a K-12 Dual Language Instruction Program in a Community with a High Percentages of Hispanics and Hispanic English Language Learners.”

“I am honored to receive this award,” Ferron said. “I hope that my dissertation will be helpful as a reference tool for future educators, administrators and educational researchers for the development and implementation of successful instructional programs for Hispanics.”

Dr. Yvonne Freeman, Professor of Language, Literacy and Intercultural Studies in the UTB College of Education, was part of Ferron’s dissertation committee.

“Dr. Ferron was an excellent doctoral candidate with a passion for his field of study,” Freeman said. “His research shows that dual language instruction provides success for Spanish speaking students nationwide, and is especially critical to children’s futures here in the Valley. We are extremely proud his dissertation was selected to receive this award. It will be studied for years to come.”

Ferron, Dual Language Coordinator for secondary schools in the Pharr, San Juan, Alamo Independent School District, is also a classroom teacher at Liberty Middle School. His academic research results overwhelmingly support what he has personally witnessed in the classroom: superior academic achievement by the Rio Grande Valley’s Hispanic children who participate in a dual language instruction curriculum.

“Bilingual education provided in the U.S. school system is not aimed to develop bilingual proficiency but to develop proficiency in English,” Ferron said. “In fact, Spanish is stigmatized, and in many cases, stripped away from the learner. Spanish is considered a problem to be fixed.”

Ferron points to himself as a product of dual language instruction, having received his K-12 education in Mexico in two languages. Bilingual skills brought him to the Valley in 1983 to manage an industrial park. He later struck out on his own and established Mario’s Tours, a tour and travel agency on both sides of the Rio Grande that was successful for 18 years.

When his tourist business slowed down due to the events of 9/11, Ferron used his free time to help migrant workers develop English skills and obtain high school diplomas (GED) at the McAllen Independent School District migrant program.

PSJA-ISD contacted Ferron to teach 8th grade U.S. History in Spanish for their dual language program, making him the first teacher in the nation to officially teach U.S. History in Spanish in a public, open-enrollment school district. Teaching changed Ferron’s professional life dramatically, and he became wholly engaged in education, making dual language instruction a lifetime endeavor. 

“The goal for dual language instruction is bilingualism, biliteracy and long-term academic achievement in both languages,” Ferron said. “By 8th grade, you can see a difference in the dual language students. They are much more engaged in learning and more positive about themselves and their culture. They want to succeed and they perceive education as the most viable way for socioeconomic success.”

Ferron said PSJA-ISD is spearheading dual language instruction across the nation, with teachers and administrators from other cities and states visiting PSJA-ISD to learn about dual language inst1ruction.

UTB offers a doctoral degree in education in five areas of study: bilingual studies, early childhood, educational leadership, educational technology and higher education teaching. The deadline to apply for fall semester 2012 entrance to the program is April 1.

For more information, contact Dr. Peter Gawenda at 956-882-5769 or peter.gawenda@utb.edu.

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