NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Stephen F. Austin State University students enrolled in the James I. Perkins College of Education are putting their skills to the test by participating in Project Confianza.

A collaborative effort between SFA's James I. Perkins College of Education and the Lufkin and Nacogdoches Independent School Districts, Project Confianza aims to improve the education of pre- and in-service teachers to help them work effectively with English Language Learners. 

More than 20 elementary education students enrolled in SFA Assistant Professor Lauren Burrow's early childhood theory and practice course are receiving hands-on practice by working one-on-one with ELLs and their families in the Nacogdoches community through the project.

Burrow said this experience helps SFA students learn about best pedagogical practices and shapes them into teachers who are well informed in lesson-plan theory and practice.

As part of the project, students are orchestrating multiple events, including Nuestra Play Date in el Parque, Nuestra Noche de Writing con Familias and Día de los Niños.

Beginning at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 2, SFA students will host Nuestra Play Date in el Parque at Banita Creek Park to serve as a meet and greet for Brooks-Quinn-Jones Elementary School students and families.

Then, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 4, SFA students will have the opportunity to exercise ELL teaching practices for creative writing during Nuestra Noche de Writing con Familias at Brooks-Quinn-Jones Elementary School. During this event, SFA students will guide ELLs and their families through poetry writing. The students will prepare by creating lesson plans adhering to Texas state standards. Burrow expects attendees to participate in two poetry centers where they will write two poems.

The night will include dinner and giveaways. SFA students will later judge the poems and select five-to-10 submissions for publication. The winning poems will be announced at the Día de los Niños celebration beginning at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, April 30, at the Judy B. McDonald Public Library in Nacogdoches.

The Día de los Niños event celebrates children's literature and multicultural authors, and the event is open to the public. SFA students will design lessons incorporating game-play while highlighting Hispanic authors and the authors of the poems selected for publication at the Nuestra Noche de Writing con Familias event.

"I wanted to change authorship to the families to honor their expertise and celebrate their contributions to their children's education," Burrow said. "By asking the SFA students to facilitate the learning event, I hope to show them the amazing outcomes that can result when teachers partner with families."

Overall, Burrow said this project serves as a way "to introduce, expose and increase SFA students' cultural awareness, interaction, appreciation, understanding and confidence when working with ELL families in their future classrooms so their teaching practices can be culturally sensitive, responsive and inclusive."

For more information, contact Burrow at