Students from Niagara Falls High School proudly display the books they wrote with Niagara University's teacher candidates during the Authorship Project, an in-depth global exploration of culture and values.

Niagara University College of Education teacher candidates enrolled in EDU578 and EDU579 during the fall 2023 semester participated in the Authorship Project, an in-depth global exploration of culture and values. As they learned the foundations of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, they also discovered the role multicultural literature plays in instruction and gleaned intercultural awareness, stretching literacy beyond our national borders.

Throughout the semester, each candidate worked with an English language learner from Niagara Falls High School to create works of multicultural children’s literature. Each week, the candidates and ELLs wrote to one another in a dialogue journal, prompted by strategic questions which enabled candidates to learn about the unique cultural and linguistic background of the ELLs. The teacher candidates then assisted their ELLs to write an “original” story based on their culture and/or their personal experiences and those of their family. The ELL students also designed the front and back cover illustrations for their books during an art-making workshop at NU’s Castellani Art Museum.

After the text and art were completed, the books were printed. They were presented to the students’ families during the final class session on Dec. 13, 2023, when the authors shared their work with family, teachers, and administrators from the Niagara Falls City School District and NU, including Niagara Falls superintendent Mark Laurrie, assessment administrator Marcia Capone, and Niagara University trustee Denise Gonez-Santos.

“This project provided opportunities for teacher candidates to learn about some of the unique cultural and linguistic characteristics of English language learners in our K-12 schools,” said Dr. Elizabeth Falzone, course instructor. “It is vital that we are preparing culturally competent educators who have the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to work with diverse populations of students. The NU teacher candidates and students from NFCSD built strong relationships with one another over the course of the semester, creating invaluable learning experiences for all involved.” 

The authorship program was made possible through a collaborative partnership with Niagara University’s College of Education, Levesque Institute for Civic Engagement, Castellani Art Museum, and the Niagara Falls City School District.