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UTEP Dean Provides Expert Testimony on Teacher Preparation to Texas Senators

Last Updated on May 27, 2022 at 12:00 AM

Originally published May 27, 2022

By Daniel Perez

UTEP Marketing and Communications

The UTEP Miner Teacher Residency program builds interest and confidence in the teaching profession and will improve retention, according to testimony Clifton Tanabe, Ph.D., dean of the College of Education, gave to members of the Texas Senate Education Committee on May 24, 2022, in Austin.

UTEP College of Education Dean Clifton Tanabe, Ph.D., provided expert testimony before the Texas Senate in Austin on May 24, 2022, regarding  solutions to the state's teacher shortage.
UTEP College of Education Dean Clifton Tanabe, Ph.D., provided expert testimony before the Texas Senate in Austin on May 24, 2022, regarding solutions to the state's teacher shortage.

The committee invited Tanabe, the lone representative from an institution of higher education, to speak about the work The University of Texas at El Paso had done to transform its teacher preparation program.

During his presentation, he covered the work done by UTEP faculty in collaboration with alumni, school districts and community partners to redesign and grow the Miner Teacher Residency (MTR) program using data to help guide decisions.

The UTEP plan assigns student “residents” to a campus for the academic year under the supervision of trained mentor teachers and UTEP-employed site coordinators. There, the residents immerse themselves in all aspects of teacher responsibilities such as lesson plan preparation, classroom instruction, parent conferences and professional peer interaction. The goal is to prepare competent and confident teachers who are ready to lead a classroom on day one, and enjoy the experience.

“High-quality teacher preparation is the cornerstone of a robust, resilient, growth-oriented educator talent pipeline, and low-quality preparation is the opposite,” Tanabe said after his presentation. “I think we got our message across.”

The residency launched in 2019 with 19 residents and two elementary school campuses in two of the region’s school districts. In fall 2022, 120 residents will serve at 32 campuses throughout seven school districts.

Tanabe also expressed his pride in the college’s redesigned alternative certification program (ACP), which allows students to complete the certification and earn an M.A in Education in one year. The 2022 cohort will include 30 ACP post-baccalaureate residents who will start this summer.

Tanabe told the committee that an important part of the residency program is the stipends that allow the residents to participate and continue to fulfill their financial obligations. This year’s residents will receive $20,000 each from their respective school districts. Some districts also call on their residents to serve as substitute teachers at their assigned campuses.

Throughout his testimony, Tanabe stressed how field-based, high-quality teacher preparation with an integrated coaching structure leads to a stronger education pipeline. He said the college expects to involve every teacher preparation candidate in the residency program within two years. However, he cautioned that the foreseeable risk is that the program will lack the capital and resources to reach its potential.

Tanabe was confident that in a few years the data would show that the system improves retention and recruitment, and builds interest and confidence in those who may want to become teachers.

John Wiebe, Ph.D., provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the University was pleased that state policymakers sought out the insights of experts such as Dean Tanabe as they plan for the future of public education in Texas.

“UTEP’s College of Education is leading in innovation when it comes to preparing teachers,” Wiebe said. “The residency program addresses multiple challenges with traditional models, increasing both access to teaching careers and excellence in preparation.”

Educators from around the country have shown interest in the Miner Teacher Residency. In November 2021, more than 150 K-12 and higher education leaders from New York, Arkansas and California spent two days in El Paso to learn about the UTEP program and its partnerships with the community and school districts.