English prof receives grant on teaching at-risk students
Deborah Bieler
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11:48 a.m., Sept. 8, 2008----What are the dynamics and interaction when new English teachers, who care about students and learning, and at-risk 9th and 10th graders, who are beginning their high school careers, come together in the classroom?

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Deborah Bieler, University of Delaware assistant professor of English and coordinator of English education field placements, has received a $7,450 grant from the National Council of Teachers of English Research Foundation to carry out research on the topic, “New English Teachers' Efficacy with At-Risk 9th and 10th Graders.”

Bieler helped found NETS (New English Teachers for Social Justice), a group of her former students who are new English teachers in five different states. “Despite the differences in the schools where they are teaching, the new teachers are facing many of the same challenges and problems in trying to reach students who are falling through the cracks,” Bieler said. “NETS serves as a support and action research group for the teachers.”

Bieler said she was thrilled to receive the grant to jumpstart this research project, and she is taking a junior faculty research leave from UD this fall for fieldwork in NETS teachers' classrooms for the project. “I will be meeting with school officials to ask for their suggestions and input on the project and visiting the classrooms on a regular basis to observe, assist the teachers, and begin to collect data,” she said.

“We hear about drop-out students, but almost 50 percent of teachers leave the profession in the first five years,” Bieler said. “I am examining what helps and what hinders teachers from teaching in equitable ways, what counts as success in literacy education for equity and how students and teachers form identities as 'stayers or leavers.' ”

Bieler herself is an experienced teacher. “I taught high school students, loved it, and want to work with high school students again soon as part of my work as a teacher educator,” she said.

Bieler received her bachelor's degree in English education and her master's degree in English language and literature from UD and her doctorate in teaching, learning and curriculum from the University of Pennsylvania. She joined the UD faculty in 2005.

Article by Sue Moncure
Photo courtesy of Deborah Bieler