Continuing Education

Heritage Language Education


Certificate in Heritage Language Instructors

Jenna Cushing-Leubner

Jenna Cushing-Leubner

Jenna Cushing-Leubner,  is an Assistant Professor in World Languages Education at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where she coordinates the World Languages licensure program and the Certificate in Heritage Language Education, and teaches in the Bilingual & Bicultural / ESL minor program. She has spent the last nine years working with teachers to create high school Spanish and Hmong heritage language programs and ESL classes that emphasize community knowledge, identity work, multimodal literacies, social justice, youth research, and transformative teaching.

J. Eik Diggs

J. Eik Diggs

J. Eik Diggs,  is a licensed Spanish language and ESL teacher and PhD student at University of Arizona. She developed and taught a multi-year high school Spanish as a Heritage Language program in South Minneapolis, Minnesota. She anchors her language teaching in intra-ethnic studies and social justice content, and focuses on developing young people who are strong in their multiple identities and backgrounds. She is currently working on grow your own initiatives to develop multilingual teachers of color in the context of heritage language programs.

Josh Prada

Josh Prada

Josh Prada, is Assistant Professor of Spanish Applied Linguistics in the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in bilingualism/multilingualism, (critical) applied language studies, and language teaching and learning. His work focuses on the development and implementation of experiential pedagogical strategies among language-minoritized students. Josh has facilitated multilingual drama workshops for primary school children in London (UK), has led STEM and literacy service-learning programs in Texas, and is developing the Spanish for heritage/native speakers minor at IUPUI (Indianapolis, IN).

Gwen Kong 

Gwen Kong

Gwen Kong, is a teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in Madison, WI where she teaches Art and leads multiple weekly courses in Hmong language, culture, and history for both heritage language learners as well as non-Hmong students. She has spent the last 16 years developing both Art and Hmong curriculum resources that focus on cultural engagement, exploration and expression of identity, problem solving, and literacy towards social justice. The heritage language curriculum she created can be found at is a teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in Madison, WI where she teaches Art and leads multiple weekly courses in Hmong language, culture, and history for both heritage language learners as well as non-Hmong students. She has spent the last 16 years developing both Art and Hmong curriculum resources that focus on cultural engagement, exploration and expression of identity, problem solving, and literacy towards social justice. The heritage language curriculum she created can be found at www.HMOOBasics.com.

Natalia Benjamin

Natalia Benjamin

Natalia Benjamin, teaches English Learners at the high school level in Rochester, MN. Before moving to Minnesota 9 years ago, she founded Discovering Languages, a private school that offered elementary-aged and preschool students Spanish and French immersion classes. She is an advocate for multilingual and multicultural education. She is part of the Facing Inequities and Racism in Education - Racial Equity Advocates (FIRE-REA) program. As such, she is trained to deliver the Cultural Competency Trainings for Education Minnesota. She also participates in the National Education Association Leaders of Color Pathways Program (NEA-LOCPP) which provides training opportunities for leadership. She is passionate about the liberation of marginalized students, specifically Latinx youth, and invests time in important issues such as identity work, humanizing pedagogies in education, Heritage Speakers education, Ethnic Studies, and supporting Educators of Color in public schools.

Dr. María del Carmen De Avila

Dr. María del Carmen De Avila

Dr. María del Carmen De Avila , earned her Ph.D. in Second Language Acquisition from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her research interests include the linguistic repertoires and the Spanish language experiences of Latinos in the United States, language choice of bilinguals, intergenerational language shift, and the roles that language status, language ideologies, prescriptivism, socioeconomic factors, Spanish and heritage language classes, and the educational system play in this shift. She has taught language courses at the junior high, high school, and college level; courses in Spanish linguistics, language teaching methodology, and Latino studies; and courses for heritage as well as second language learners. Additionally, she has worked as a content specialist/supervisor for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, where she has worked on various types of assessments in English and Spanish. Email: mcdeavila@gmail.com .

Growing Biliteracies Instructors

Jenna Cushing-Leubner

Jenna Cushing-Leubner

Jenna Cushing-Leubner,  is an Assistant Professor in World Languages Education at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where she coordinates the World Languages licensure program and the Certificate in Heritage Language Education, and teaches in the Bilingual & Bicultural / ESL minor program. She has spent the last nine years working with teachers to create high school Spanish and Hmong heritage language programs and ESL classes that emphasize community knowledge, identity work, multimodal literacies, social justice, youth research, and transformative teaching.

J. Eik Diggs

J. Eik Diggs

J. Eik Diggs,  is a licensed Spanish language and ESL teacher and PhD student at University of Arizona. She developed and taught a multi-year high school Spanish as a Heritage Language program in South Minneapolis, Minnesota. She anchors her language teaching in intra-ethnic studies and social justice content, and focuses on developing young people who are strong in their multiple identities and backgrounds. She is currently working on grow your own initiatives to develop multilingual teachers of color in the context of heritage language programs.

Jen López

Jen López

Jen López, is a licensed K-12 Spanish teacher and has been teaching high school Heritage Spanish courses for nine years. Over the years, she has worked to move her program from one focused on memorizing grammar rules and vocabulary to one that focuses on literacy skills that transfer to different courses and different areas of student's personal and professional lives. During the summer of 2019, she attended professional development with her school’s English department, and together they decided to implement a workshop model in their classes for the 2019-2020 school year. Her Heritage 1 classes include daily independent choice reading and choice writing activities. She has presented at MCTLC and CSCTFL and blogs about her workshop classroom at https://growingwithheritagelearners.home.blog

Dr. May Vang

Dr. May Vang

Dr. May Vang, bio/photo coming soon

Dr. Kelly Hatch

Dr. Kelly Hatch

Dr. Kelly Hatch, bio/photo coming soon

Heritage Language Webinar Instructors

Dr. Kim Potowski

Dr. Kim Potowski

Dr. Kim Potowski, is Professor of Spanish linguistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, with courtesy appointments in Latin American and Latino Studies and in Curriculum and Instruction. Her research focuses on Spanish in the U.S., including factors that influence language maintenance as well as connections between language, education, and identity. She directed her campus’ Spanish Heritage Language Program for 17 years and is the founding director of its summer study abroad program in Oaxaca, Mexico. Her advocacy for the value of dual language education in promoting bilingualism and biliteracy was the focus of her 2013 TEDx talk “No child left monolingual.” She has authored and edited over 12 books including:

  • El español de los
  • Estados Unidos Heritage language teaching: Research and practice
  • Language diversity in the USA
  • Language and identity in a dual immersion school
  • Gramática española: Variación social
  • Conversaciones escritas
Carla Espana

Carla España, PhDi

Carla España, PhD, is an instructor and fieldwork advisor at Bank Street Graduate School of Education. She teaches in the Bilingual/TESOL graduate program and partners with K-12 schools and university teacher preparation programs to support preservice and in-service teachers, coaches, and administrators. As a former middle grade bilingual teacher and literacy coach, she has more than ten years of curriculum development in K-12 settings across schools in the United States, Mexico, Chile, and Colombia. Her teaching, writing, research, and workshops live at the intersections of critical literacy, bilingual/multilingual education, children's literature, translanguaging, language ideologies, and teacher education. Find her on Twitter @ProfesoraEspana.

Luz Yadira Herrera

Luz Yadira Herrera, PhD

Luz Yadira Herrera, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Multilingual Education in the Kremen School of Education and Human Development at California State University, Fresno. She has over 15 years of experience in the education of emergent bilinguals in both mainstream and bilingual settings. Dr. Herrera's teaching and research are in culturally and linguistically sustaining pedagogy, translanguaging, critical pedagogies, and bilingual education policy. Find her on Twitter @Dra_LuzYadira.

“With the wealth of knowledge that Dr. Cushing-Leubner and J. Eik Diggs offer, I have been able to develop three levels of Spanish heritage language classes. The resources that I have been provided with have allowed me to create a class where students feel heard and safe.” (Aracely Vergara, Spanish HLE Teacher, MN High School)


“The course helped me open my teaching practices to becoming something far greater than what I could imagine. It affirmed what I thought I knew and allowed me to utilize new strategies and take them into action with students. I also love the ongoing support that usually doesn’t happen with any other PD/Higher Ed courses I’ve taken. Thank you for giving me the wealth of knowledge I need to ensure my heritage learners are in the best place possible.” (Pang Yang, Hmong HLE Teacher, MN High School)


“The Critical Approaches to Heritage Language Education course was by far the best professional development I’ve ever participated in. It empowered me to take my practice and advocacy to the next level. Even now, four years later, I still refer back to that course regularly.” (Jen López, Spanish HLE Teacher, MN High School)


“It teaches us to empower our students in different ways, but also empower us to be better teachers, how to navigate the educational structure to benefit our students as it should. It opens eyes to see that what a teacher faces is what many teacher faced in terms of equity to minority teachers and students. (Yer Syhaphom, Hmong HLE and Art Teacher, MN High School)


“Heritage language teachers frequently exist in isolation. Without colleagues or curriculum, there is little guidance or support on how to best serve heritage students – students deserving of an excellent education in their heritage language. The HLE program provides this crucial support, in connecting teachers to each other and to quality resources, readings, and approaches. I now have heritage language colleagues – and friends! – all over the country, and a toolbox for my classes that reflects my students. This program has truly been invaluable for me, and I know of nothing else like it.” (Michaela McCaughey, Spanish HLE Teacher, RI High School)


“The HLE program has been transformational for me at different levels. At a professional level, it gave me the tools to advocate for a course only for heritage learners at my university that will be offered next academic year. At a personal level, it helped me better connect not only with my heritage learners but also reconnect with myself as a heritage Signer (I started taking a course on Spanish Sign Language!). I was the voice of my parents and through the HL course I want my students to have a voice also in Spanish.” (Eva Gómez García, Lecturer Hispanic Studies, Brown University, RI)


“HLE opened my eyes to teach the whole student and not just their academics. It helped me to reach my students with humanizing pedagogies that build their personal identities, that give students a voice, and that allow for a space to have hard conversations about injustices they face at school.” (Natalia Benjamin, EL Teacher/Department Chair, MN High School)


“The HLE program at UWW changed my perspective on teaching heritage language learners and provided me with the pedagogy and tools of engagement that I so desperately needed at this point in my career. The readings, discussions, and assignments offered me an opportunity to grow as a teacher and a learner in ways that were engaging and insightful (a rare experience in this age of professional development that is so frequently inadequate). My experience in the HLE program validated my own translanguaging skills, as well as those of my students, honoring our wealth of cultural capital, and has made a huge difference in my classroom.” (Gwen Kong, Hmong HLE and Art Teacher, WI Elementary School)


“The instructors provide great perspectives of teaching heritage languages. They show you critical approaches and sample lessons. I was able to see how they used exemplary curriculum to engage students and create life-long learners. They have awesome projects that allow students to explore their identities and histories. I learned a lot about social justice content based instruction and getting the students involved in the work. I would highly recommend any workshop or seminar by them!” (Maddie Wills, Spanish HLE Teacher, MN)