Professional Development

Project REACH

REACH — Retooling Educators and Paraprofessionals to ACHieve Teacher Credentialing

Project REACH fosters teacher effectiveness and equity in meeting the need of a rapidly growing English learner (EL) population in the Springdale, Arkansas, School District (SSD) and targeted schools.

Additional partners include, Community Partners and Community Members, Northwest Arkansas Community College (NWACC) and Kansas State University.

The goal is for certified K-5 teachers to become ESL-endorsed (English as a Second Language) and have an opportunity to earn a TESOL graduate certificate (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) through a hybrid online program.

In an effort to address teacher-student disparity, a "Grow Your Own" initiative targets bilingual/bicultural paraprofessionals in the Springdale district to upgrade their qualifications and skills by earning an Associate of Art and/or Bachelor of Science in Education in elementary education with an ESL endorsement. These future teachers have EL insider's knowledge from multiple years of serving ELs and their families in the district and many reside in the community where they work.

For more information, contact Principal Investigator/Program Director Diana Gonzales Worthen, Ph.D., at or call 479-575-4669.

Project REACH is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of English Language Acquisition, through Aug. 31, 2022. The grant pays for tuition, fees and textbooks.

Project SOAR

SOAR — Strategically Organized for EL Academic Results

Project SOAR provides K-12 Arkansas educators with purposefully designed, job-embedded professional development opportunities in two formats to increase their knowledge, skills and instructional best practices to better serve today’s growing population of English Learners (ELs) and culturally linguistically diverse (CLD) students.

Whether choosing the option of online graduate coursework with culturally responsive instructional coaching or taking courses from a series of professional development modules, participants will not only gain a better understanding for how ELs and CLD students learn but also create resources and apply strategies to increase student achievement and build partnerships with parents and families as well as the community.

For more information, contact: Principal Investigator Janet Penner-Williams, Ed.D., at or Project Director Shelly McKeever at

Project SOAR is funded by a National Professional Development grant through the U.S. Department of Education, Office of English Language Acquisition.

The University of Arkansas presented its inaugural, interactive Grow Your Own (GYO) Educators Convening titled "Rooting Our Future Within Our Community," on Feb. 5, 2024, with participants limited to 100 . The symposium is sponsored by the U of A College of Education and Health Professions, the Walton Family Foundation and Projects REACH and ELEVATE.

The preview story "Inaugural Fayetteville Grow Your Own Educators Convening to Address Teacher Shortages," University of Arkansas News, Jan. 24, 2024, and the recap article "Arkansas Can Address Teacher Shortage through 'Grow Your Own' Programs" (with alternate link) Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Feb. 5, 2024, have further details.