MAY 23, 2022 — The Texas Education Agency State Board for Educator Certification has commended UTSA’s educator preparation program (EPP) in the UTSA College of Education and Human Development (COEHD) for seeking innovative ways to prepare teacher candidates for the classroom.
The commendation recognizes the EPP’s collective vision and cutting-edge work to best meet the needs of the community, said Belinda Bustos Flores, associate dean of professional preparation and partnerships in COEHD.
“I always say we lead and not follow,” Flores explained. “We optimize our opportunities and our partnerships with the school districts to ensure that our teacher candidates, our principals, counselors, everybody has an opportunity to grow and become the future teachers and leaders of tomorrow.”
Among the innovations, transitioning from traditional, semester-long clinical teaching experiences to a year-long teaching residency. By placing teacher candidates in the same classroom with the same teacher for a whole year, Flores said, they have more opportunities to connect with the teachers, children, schools and communities.
“The demands on first-year teachers and the expectations of school districts are that even when you’re a first-year teacher you walk in ready to teach, not having to learn how to do things,” she said.
Innovation has also played a crucial role in the program’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In order to better prepare students for the realities of the classroom, Flores continued, the candidates had been learning to integrate technology into their teaching, even before the pandemic began. This gave them an advantage when schools around the nation began transitioning to online and hybrid learning. In fact, Flores added, the school districts reported that UTSA’s clinical teachers were some of the most successful at adapting to the quickly changing environment and were already familiar with many of the necessary platforms.
For Flores, these successes point directly back to the work done in the EPP.
“That adaptability doesn’t come without us providing them a variety of opportunities and experiences in the educator preparation program, where they’re able to practice this,” she said.
In addition to identifying ways in which UTSA is innovating teacher preparation, Flores believes the commendation also recognizes the work of the faculty and clinical supervisors. The accolade is also furthering the reputation of UTSA—already known for its status as a Hispanic Serving Institute (HSI) and a Tier One research university—and the students who pass through the EPP.
“Those are great indicators of the type of university and the quality of education they receive,” Flores said. “And now, specifically in the case of future teachers, the program they’ve attended has been recognized as innovative. That adds value to their degree and their preparation as a teacher.”
While the commendation also raises the bar for other schools, there remains work to be done at UTSA, Flores added.
“We want to keep an image of actually demonstrating that we are the best, versu an image of being the best,” she said.
Going forward, one of the goals of the EPP will be to increase the number of teaching candidates who enter the program, as schools across the country are experiencing teacher shortages. In conjunction with increased recruiting, Flores said the program will work to sustain its high retention rate, or even increase it.
Quality, however, will always take precedence over quantity.
“We want to increase the number and make sure we provide the knowledge and skills so those wonderful, highly qualified, culturally efficacious teachers stay in the field and serve the community for a long time,” Flores said.
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