Teaching Philadelphia students technology and Spanish at the same time

Feb 14, 2012

Bethany Rickard teaches students about everything from colors and letters to html and web design, and she’s helping them become bilingual at the same time.

A December graduate of Delaware Valley College’s Teacher Certification Internship Program, she teaches computer classes entirely in Spanish at a bilingual K-8 charter school in Philadelphia.

“It is amazing to watch how Beth teaches her class in Spanish and how the young students respond to the content about computers,” said Bernie McGee, an adjunct who is responsible for observing DelVal’s TCIP students. “As a principal for over 20 years, Beth is the type of teacher I wanted in my schools.  She is energetic, competent and caring.  She provides the right ingredients to make learning fun and exciting for her students.”

About the program

People who already have bachelor’s degrees can earn level 1 teacher certification quickly at DelVal by taking 21 required credits and completing an internship.

After completing required credits, passing Praxis exams and getting clearances, interns apply to the Pennsylvania Department of Education for the intern certification.

TCIP Coordinator Kate Hinkle estimated that about 100 students per year enroll in the program. She said the approximate cost is $12,000.

DelVal has TCIP students working in public and private schools all over Pennsylvania and in New Jersey.

“They are especially appreciated in Philadelphia,” Hinkle said of the students. “They bring more than just academic knowledge to the classroom. A lot of the TCIP students in chemistry and the sciences have worked at drug companies… Schools appreciate that they can bring that experience to the classroom.”

DelVal has people with expertise in business, computers, information technology, math, English, agriculture, social studies, general science, biology and chemistry who come back to get the qualifications they need to lead classrooms.


Deciding to enroll

“I happened to catch the (TCIP) ad on the radio one day,” said Rickard. “Teaching wasn’t something I was considering, I heard how rapid the program was, called, spoke with people in TCIP and was enrolled within two weeks.”

Rickard, of Wayne, Pa., graduated from The University of Pittsburgh in 2005 with a bachelor’s in business with concentrations in marketing and Spanish.

Before getting certified to teach in Pennsylvania, she worked for an independent study abroad program, taught classes for a year in Spain and worked for various other educational programs. She always liked training other employees and really wanted to make a career out of teaching.

“I was certified (to intern) in under a year. That was fantastic,” said Rickard, who completed her TCIP courses from March to November 2010.

Teaching experience

In August, she started her internship at Eugenio Maria De Hostos, the bilingual charter school where she works now. She was hired for a regular yearlong contract position that more than fulfilled her internship requirement.


She loves teaching technology at the charter school.

“It’s great to be in a bilingual community,” said Rickard. “We all enter the school with the goal of making the kids bilingual and bicultural. I see endless possibilities for what we can teach them and what they can learn.”

Her experience at DelVal

Rickard said DelVal’s TCIP program helped prepare her to be part of this special mission.

“All my instructors were either teachers or administrators at local high schools,” said Rickard. “They were very knowledgeable about their subjects. They were very hands-on, very willing to help out. I’m still in touch with some; one actually wrote me a letter of recommendation and offered to help any time with my job search.”

A rewarding career 

The charter school is at the intersection of Cheltenham Avenue and Second Street. Rickard teaches students there a variety of skills. She also teaches two electives for sixth- to eighth-graders, a newsletter course and web design.

Students in the newsletter course create a publication in both English and Spanish. In the web design course, students learn about html, the programing code behind websites.

“The school hadn’t had a technology teacher for a few years,” said Rickard.

She took a few technology courses and taught herself programs with online resources.

“Technology is something I’ve always had an interest in,” said Rickard.

Her students have a variety of language backgrounds.

“There’s a pretty big mix. Some are English-as-second-language students, some are Spanish-as-a-second-language students,” said Rickard. “They come from the Philadelphia area. It is a charter school so they do need to apply to get in.”

She only speaks Spanish in her classroom.

“That can be a challenge because they sometimes don’t know what I’m saying," said Rickard. "It’s visuals, vocabulary, lots of hands-on work.”

Rickard perfected her Spanish by taking college courses, studying in Costa Rica her sophomore year of college and by teaching in English for a year in Spain.

Changing futures

She hopes the combination of being bilingual and having strong technology skills will help her students stand out from the competition.

“They’re getting their first applications for high school right now,” Rickard said in October 2011. “For some of the more specialized high schools, like the technology schools, it is definitely going to make the students much stronger competition. It also might help them to choose which high schools to apply to. They might find that they have a skill or knack for technology and get excited.”

One of her proudest moments was watching her kids learn html.

“Seeing seventh- and eighth-graders learn html (was rewarding); some adults don’t know how to do that,” said Rickard. “(I love) when you’re able to get them excited about the technology.”