UTEP Launches Miner Teacher Residency Program
Last Updated on September 27, 2019 at 12:00 AM
Originally published September 27, 2019
By Daniel Perez
Community partners joined leaders from The University of Texas at El Paso on Sept. 26, 2019, to announce a “game changer” idea that they believe will revolutionize UTEP’s teacher preparation program and eventually benefit K-12 students throughout the Paso del Norte region and beyond.
Under a canopy of cottonwood trees in front of the University Library, UTEP President Heather Wilson and Clifton Tanabe, Ph.D., dean of the College of Education, were among the speakers who publicized a paid yearlong Miner Teacher Residency Program that would start with 19 UTEP student teachers.
About 60 people including UTEP faculty, staff and students, and representatives from the El Paso Community Foundation, Workforce Solutions Borderplex and the Council on Regional Economic Expansion and Educational Development (CREEED) attended the morning event. The three organizations agreed to fund the teacher internship initiative.
The pilot program immerses student teachers for an academic year in a classroom where they will co-teach alongside an experienced mentor teacher at either Mesita Elementary School in the El Paso Independent School District or Purple Heart Elementary School in the Socorro Independent School District. Two College of Education faculty members, based at those campuses, also will support the student teachers as they transition their knowledge from theory to practice. The college ordinarily sends its student teachers on semester-long sessions.
President Wilson commended the college’s administrators and faculty members, and their community partners for starting this innovative program because it showed how the college has responded to the 21st-century needs of the area’s youngest learners and the need to enrich teacher preparation.
“This collaborative effort is a leading example of the power of partnerships in the community to transform and enhance the educational aspirations and the outcomes in the community,” President Wilson said.
Tanabe said this program is about the University’s responsibility to the children and the families of El Paso, and to those students who come to UTEP to become the best teachers possible. He said the seed for this program came from a discussion with area teachers who were UTEP graduates. Many spoke highly of the rigorous curriculum and the dedicated faculty, but they asked college leaders to include more classes that would prepare them better for a “real” classroom.
Their efforts led to a three-year commitment from the University-School Partnerships for the Renewal of Educator Preparation (US PREP), a national organization that offers technical assistance with institutions of higher education that want to create and share best practices. College leaders worked with representatives with US PREP, SISD and EPISD to develop the Miner Teacher Residency Program.
The program included financial incentives from the districts to assist the student teachers, but Tanabe sought more. He visited with community partners to see who might want to help fund stipends for the student participants.
The stipend was an important part of this effort because many teacher candidates need some income to pay for rent, food and utilities. Tanabe praised the community partners who agreed to fund this program.
“Their collaboration, their leadership, their generosity, make all of this possible,” he said. “Their commitment to funding this innovative approach of the paid internship initiative is, we believe, a game changer for teacher preparation and education equality in El Paso.”
Among the audience members was Carolina Perez, senior interdisciplinary studies major with an early childhood to grade six concentration. She is one of the 19 student teachers in the residency program. The El Paso native has been a first-grade teacher with 22 students at the Purple Heart campus since late August 2019.
She said she has been grateful for the level of support she has received at the classroom and campus levels. She said her work has generated different challenges, but she continues to learn how to deal with each one.
“I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn,” Perez said after the ceremony. “You need a lot of patience. You need to be there for them and nurture their hearts.”
The West El Paso resident said she was on track to graduate in December 2019, but was intrigued with the program’s benefits. She said she discussed this opportunity with her parents, who help pay for her education. She said they understood the program’s value and supported her decision to stay in school an extra semester.
“I want to experience the different ways that kids learn throughout the year and how those lessons help them grow,” she said. “I look forward to working with teachers and learning from them. This will be a great experience to see how (teachers) prepare throughout the year and how they implement their plans.”
Perez’s nurture reference echoed one of the points made by guest speaker Michelle Sandoval, an eighth-grade teacher at Parkland Middle School in the Ysleta Independent School District. Region 19 selected her in August as its 2019 Secondary Teacher of the Year. The Texas Association of School Administrators named her among the three finalists for Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year. They will announce the winner in late October.
Sandoval, who earned her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from UTEP in 2009, shared the story of her first-grade teacher who inspired her to be an educator. She congratulated the student teachers selected for this program and told them that they would be responsible to ignite the fire in their students.
“You can be the inspiration for someone,” said the El Paso native, who added that teachers could not control which students walked into their classroom, but they definitely could provide the inspiration to those that walked out of them.
She closed with the simple reminder that education transcends academics and it starts with relationships.
“Always know that you teach the 'who' first and the 'what' will follow,” she said.