NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Imagine being in a classroom where you don’t speak the language. You try to complete your assignments. You try to communicate with your classmates, but you can’t.

“There are a lot of kids coming into Texas who don’t speak English and Spanish learners who are having trouble in the classroom. I was one when I was younger, and I didn’t have the guidance I needed,” said Miriam Lira, a student at Stephen F. Austin State University who has recently been involved with helping create a chapter of the Bilingual Education Student Organization.  

Lira, BESO vice president, along with SFA elementary education juniors Brenda Sosa, BESO president; Valerie Vela, secretary; and Sofia Martinez, treasurer; have worked to bring BESO to Nacogdoches. Dr. Sarah Straub, SFA assistant professor in elementary education, helped kick start this organization.

“We weren’t aware that there wasn’t anything out there for diverse and bilingual education, so whenever Dr. Straub brought it up I was shocked,” Martinez said. “We believed we should start the organization here and spread the word about bilingual education.”

Many universities across Texas have a BESO chapter. Martinez explained its goal is to promote bilingual education in the field of education, as well as the diversity of bilingualism.

“I know many Spanish-speaking parents come here and make their children learn English and not Spanish,” Martinez said. “My parents taught me the opposite. They taught me to not be ashamed of who you are. You are Hispanic; you speak Spanish first. Don’t ever let go of that because you will use it in the future.”

Students do not have to speak Spanish to be a BESO member. As a member, students will have the opportunity to attend professional development events specific to bilingual education. For example, Dr. Jim Ewing, SFA assistant professor in elementary education, spoke to BESO members at their first meeting about “Celebrating Nuestra Identidad (our identity): The Various Faces of Bilingualism.”

Erica Bundy, from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, spoke to BESO members during the second professional development session about “translanguaging” as a way to support bilingual students by empowering them to use all of their linguistic resources.

“Our officers believe teacher candidates should have more of an opportunity to learn about bilingualism and their future emergent bilingual students, and this open professional development opportunity provides that space,” Straub said.

Community service is another important aspect of BESO, and members will have the opportunity to engage with the community in various ways. For example, BESO has a partnership with Absolutely Fiction in Lufkin, and members will conduct bilingual reading sessions and activities this semester.

Currently, there is no membership fee. To join, contact Straub at or (936) 468-1723.