• by Linda Cantú, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • April 2013 •

Dr. Linda CantuTo be successful, schools must have skilled, committed teachers who are passionate about innovation and engaging all students. IDRA has teamed up with universities and K-12 schools across

Texas to address this need. IDRA’s teacher preparation strategy is cultivating hundreds of new teachers to serve a more diverse student body, engaging seasoned teachers as mentors, and building networks for ongoing growth and support.

During the past 12 years, IDRA has received five multi-year grants from the U.S. Department of Education’s Transition to Teaching program. These are statewide grants that have helped recruit, prepare, place and retain a critical mass of highly qualified mid-career professionals and recent graduates as teachers in high-need

Texas school districts. The teacher certification occurred through accelerated programs offered to already-degreed professionals. As part of IDRA’s Transition to Teaching grants, IDRA has partnered with teacher preparation programs in colleges, universities and school districts throughout

Texas. We have prepared teachers in high-need areas that were identified by school districts, such as bilingual/ESL, special education, math, science and other subjects with an added supplemental certification in ESL and special education. As a result, more than 600 prepared new teachers have been placed.

Two of IDRA Transition to Teaching programs are currently recruiting and placing teachers. The goal of T3 ~ Teachers for Today & Tomorrow’s is to transition mid-career professionals, recent graduates and highly qualified paraprofessionals who have excelled in other fields into teaching in high-need schools. T3 specifically seeks to increase the number of highly-qualified and credentialed teachers in math, science and bilingual/ESL.

Caminos is working with 150 bilingual and bilingual special education teachers through an accelerated teacher preparation program. Through Caminos, IDRA recruits, prepares, places and retains highly qualified mid-career professionals and recent graduates as teachers with extensive personalized and online mentoring and support to ensure success and retention in the teaching profession.

Caminos and T3 are statewide consortiums for accelerated teacher certification led by IDRA that offer the following to teacher candidates:

  • High-quality training and university coursework;
  • An accelerated but rigorous certification route of 12-15 months;
  • A “grow-your-own” approach where, after a three-month orientation program, applicants become teachers of record while completing a preparation program;
  • Support for tuition and expenses up to $3,000;
  • Online and on-site mentoring support during the first two years of teaching; and
  • Review sessions to help participants pass certification exams.

An individuals is eligible to participate, if he or she:

  • Is a second-career professional with excellent employment and academic records from an accredited college or university; or
  • Is a recent graduate (within the past three years) with excellent academic record from accredited college or university;
  • Is a paraprofessional in a high-need school district enrolled in a degree and certification program at an approved college or university; and
  • Meets entry requirements of the partner alternative certification program, including bilingual skills in English and Spanish.

There have been and are many successful teachers who are part of IDRA’s Transition to Teaching programs working today in Texas high-need schools and working in high-need areas. Some of IDRA’s teachers have shared what is possible.

Ms. Louanne Rintala, a graphic designer who worked in advertising for 11 years, joined the Caminos program because she wanted to make a difference. Today, as a bilingual teacher, she is combining creativity and commitment for second graders in a San Antonio ISD elementary school. She says, “One of my favorite things is seeing the pride in their faces.”

Ms. Kerry L. Arrington is pursuing a general education and LEP certification through Dallas ISD and is combining her training with a love of learning and a commitment to all students’ success. She explains: “I wanted to help students make a connection from real-world applications to taught concepts. I knew math could be fun and exciting, and I wanted to help students understand that as well. [IDRA’s] program has equipped me with the tools needed to teach all students.”

Mr. Chris Thelan, is working to become a teacher with Dallas ISD. Following five years of active military service, he is committed to learning, as that fulfills the potential of every child in his classroom. He is proud to bring the kind of leadership and respect for people of all backgrounds to work on behalf of children that not only connects them to math, but to a world of possibility. He adds: “[IDRA’s] program has helped equip me further by building a more diverse ‘kit’ bag. Each session gifted me and my students with better ideas, calmer solutions and a greater ability to relate mathematical content.”

Sisters Ms. Marlene and Ms. Martha Alonso had both originally set off on different career paths. Marlene earned an MBA and had gone to work in the banking industry. But with a true passion for teaching, she left the business world three years ago to pursue certification through IDRA’s program. Martha earned a degree in accounting and became an internal auditor for San Antonio ISD. But her childhood dream was to teach, and every time she visited a campus, that calling tugged at her until she was able to make it a reality.

Today, Marlene is a fourth grade bilingual teacher at in San Antonio ISD. Her management background serves the new work well: Marlene is the campus lead bilingual teacher and chairs the community involvement committee at her school, securing donated supplies and engaging community and school partners in student tutoring and mentoring. Marlene says: “I feel like I am really making a difference in my students’ lives, not only academically but also teaching and motivating them to see that they can be successful. I was raised in this neighborhood, so I can relate to my students.”

Martha is in her third year at a middle school in San Antonio ISD teaching sixth through eighth grade ESL. As the only ESL teacher in the school, she serves all 60 ELL students on campus, connecting with core content teachers and her students’ families, and tutoring her students in math and science, before and after school, based on the ongoing analysis she does of student data. Martha says, “My childhood dream had always been to become a teacher.” And she is not stopping there. Next up is a PhD in organizational leadership at the University of the Incarnate Word, to deepen her expertise in English language learning.

Martha Garza was a data entry clerk for an ophthalmologist. Now, she has completed her third year as a bilingual teacher. She currently teaches at an elementary school in South San Antonio ISD. She thinks bilingual education is needed. Many of her students speak English but need help with comprehending vocabulary. She uses a lot of visuals to help them with comprehension. She meets with many of her bilingual students  after school to give them extra help: “I use a lot of hands on and visual to help those students learn. I feel that my students are like my kids.”

For more information on IDRA’s Transition to Teaching projects, see IDRA’s website or contact Dr. Linda Cantu at IDRA. You can also hear a Classnotes Podcast interview with Martha Alonso, MBA, and Marlene Alonso, MBA, at http://www.idra.org/resource-center/learning-while-teaching-a-conversation-with-new-teachers/.

Linda Cantú, Ph.D. is a senior education associate. Dr. Cantú also coordinates IDRA’s Transitions to Teaching projects. Comments and questions may be directed to her via email at feedback@idra.org.

[©2013, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the April 2013 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]