TD Charitable Foundation Awards $15,000 Grant to Watson Institute

July 22, 2014

(Front row from left) Ana I. Berdecia, senior fellow/director, The John S. Watson Institute’s Center for the Positive Development of Urban Children and Barbara George Johnson, executive director, The John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy. (Second row from left) John P. Thurber, vice president for Public Affairs at Thomas Edison State College, Dominique Goss, Community Relations Manager and Vice President at TD Bank, and Joseph P. Tredinnick, regional vice president at TD Bank.

(Front row from left) Ana I. Berdecia, senior fellow/director, The John S. Watson Institute’s Center for the Positive Development of Urban Children and Barbara George Johnson, executive director, The John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy. (Second row from left) John P. Thurber, vice president for Public Affairs at Thomas Edison State College, Dominique Goss, Community Relations Manager and Vice President at TD Bank, and Joseph P. Tredinnick, regional vice president at TD Bank.

TD Charitable Foundation, the charitable giving arm of TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank®, has awarded a $15,000 grant to support a mentoring program based in The John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy of Thomas Edison State College that helps teachers become more culturally aware of students from diverse backgrounds.

The N.J. Cultural Competency and English Language Learners Summer Institute (ELL), launched in 2007, is coordinated by The Watson Institute’s Center for the Positive Development of Urban Children. The program trains and mentors early childhood educators from across the state, helping them to create environments that affirm and celebrate the diverse cultural heritage and languages of their students. 

“We are honored to receive this vital funding from the TD Charitable Foundation,” said Ana I. Berdecia, MEd, center director. “The funding continues to be crucial in our ability to support more teachers who are working with a diverse population of children and families across New Jersey by giving them the tools and strategies to become culturally and linguistically responsive educators.”

Funding from the TD Charitable Foundation has supported the mentor-based portion of the program since 2008.
Since it began, ELL has trained and mentored 141 early childhood educators working in 75 classrooms throughout New Jersey, enabling them to create environments that affirm and celebrate the cultural diversity of their students. 

According to  the U.S. Census Bureau, 29.6 percent of the 8.9 million people living in the state age 5 and older, come from homes where a language other than English is spoken.  Berdecia said related studies show that culturally responsive early childhood educators have the power to provide children across this array of cultures with the confidence to explore their world. 

The program includes teachers taking part in a summer institute, held at Thomas Edison State College followed by nine months of mentoring. Teachers participate in teleconferences to continue the interaction and training.

“Program evaluations indicate that the intensive mentoring is helping both novice and seasoned teachers translate their new knowledge into sound cultural and linguistic teaching practices,” noted Berdecia.

The N.J. Cultural Competency and English Language Learners Summer Institute has also received support from the Nicholson Foundation and Thomas Edison State College.