Empowering Teachers to Serve Today’s Classrooms
Preparing a New Generation of Teachers for Science, Technology, Math and Special Education Teachers Learning and Leading, in Community
Across the South, public schools need skilled, committed teachers, who are passionate about innovation and engaging all students. Through its Transition to Teaching programs, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, IDRA partnered with universities and more than 55 public school districts across Texas to prepare a new generation of skilled, effective teachers to lead and innovate in schools that need them most.
IDRA and our partners recruited, prepared and trained effective new teachers in math, science, bilingual/ESL and special education fields. And through coaching, mentoring, in-person and online networks, we built the kinds of professional communities that nurture classroom success and campus leadership.
Without exception, the projects emphasized an asset-based approach, preparing mid-career professionals and recent college graduates to become teachers who recognize and build on their students’ academic, cultural and linguistic strengths. And early on, they provided direct classroom experience to teachers, blending the theoretical with the practical. In collaboration with more than 20 college and university partners, IDRA is providing mentoring, organizing discussion groups, and forming peer cohorts to support new teachers.
The result is a teacher preparation strategy that is equipping a large cadre of new teachers to serve a more diverse student body, engaging seasoned teachers as mentors, and building networks for ongoing growth and support. We help educators connect with one another, exchange best practices, learn about research, and continue professional development online through Community of Educators, a network of educators across the state of Texas. All participants receive ongoing support through IDRA’s Community of Educators network.
When Federico “Freddy” Botello began to pursue a master’s degree at 46, he had no intention of becoming a public school teacher. He had heard stories of classroom transformation from dedicated teachers, but was unconvinced that teaching really mattered in changing a child’s life. To find out for himself, he took a job as a para-professional in a Title I school and began to work with English language learners. Everything changed. Mr. Botello saw dramatic leaps in learning among students defined as “at risk” and believed to be “destined to fail.” He made a personal commitment to helping all his students succeed and joined IDRA’s Caminos project. Studying with Texas A&M San Antonio, Mr. Botello earned his Texas teaching certificate in bilingual general/ESL, EC–6 through the program in July of 2014. Today, he teaches at Lytle Elementary in Atascosa County, Texas. (IDRA, 2015)
Ms. Villacorta, who was born in Guatemala and dreamed of being a teacher since she was a little girl, is one of the hundreds of dedicated and deeply caring teachers who, through IDRA’s Transition to Teaching programs are developing and honing their skills to teach in high-need districts around the state of Texas. (IDRA, 2014)
Louanne Rintala, a graphic designer who worked in advertising for 11 years joined the TTT program because she wanted to make a difference. Today, as a bilingual teacher, she is combining creativity and commitment to second graders at San Antonio ISD’s Beacon Hill Elementary. (IDRA, 2013)
Kerry L. Arrington is pursuing a general education and LEP certification through Dallas ISD and combining her training with a love of learning and a commitment to all students’ success. (IDRA, 2013)
Chris Thelan, who is working to become a teacher with Dallas ISD, following five years of active military service, 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 also to a world of possibility. (IDRA, 2013)
Sisters Marlene and Martha Alonso had both originally set off on different career paths. Marlene earned an MBA and had gone to work in the banking industry. Martha earned a degree in accounting and became an internal auditor for San Antonio ISD. But with a true passion for teaching, both decided to leave their earlier careers and pursue certification through IDRA’s TTT program. Today, Marlene Alonso is a fourth grade bilingual teacher at Bowden Elementary in San Antonio ISD, Campus Lead Bilingual Teacher and chair of the Community Involvement Committee at her school. Martha Alonso is in her third year at Rhodes Middle School in San Antonio ISD teaching sixth through eighth grade ESL. As the only ESL teacher at Rhodes MS, 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. But she is not stopping there. Next up is a Ph.D. in organizational leadership at the University of the Incarnate Word. (IDRA, 2013)
Report Provides 15-Year Synthesis of IDRA’s Transition to Teaching Program
An IDRA report outlines the contributions of IDRA’s 15 years in teacher preparation through six multi-year Transition to Teaching grants, funded by the U.S. Department of Education. IDRA partnered with universities and more than 55 school districts across Texas to prepare a new generation of skilled, effective teachers to lead and innovate in schools that need them most. The projects recruited over 800 recent graduates and mid-career professionals who were working in fields other than teaching. These new teachers participated in university coursework and intense professional development while in a first-year paid teaching internship. They committed to working in high-need school districts for a set number of years.
Stories about IDRA’s Transition to Teaching Work
New Teachers Learning and Leading through IDRA’s Transition to Teaching Programs
Linda Cantú, Ph.D., IDRA Newsletter, April 2013
Classnotes Podcast: Learning While Teaching (A Conversation with New Teachers) – Episode 120
Martha Alonso, MBA, Marlene Alonso, MBA, and Linda Cantú, Ph.D., March 7, 2013
Building Teaching Quality from the Start – New Skills for New Teachers
Rosana G. Rodríguez, Ph.D., and Linda Cantu, Ph.D., IDRA Newsletter, November-December 2010
The Bilingual Education Collaborating Alliance – Lessons Learned from an Accelerated Teacher Preparation Program
Adela Solís, Ph.D., and Rosana Rodríguez, Ph.D., IDRA Newsletter, June-July 2006
Tools for Creating and Evaluating the Rigor and Quality of Alternative Route Certification Programs
Adela Solís, Ph.D., and Rosana Rodríguez, Ph.D., IDRA Newsletter, May 2006
IDRA’s Transitions Project – Promoting Excellence in Teaching through a Highly Qualified Teaching Force
Linda Cantú, Ph.D., and Adela Solís, Ph.D., IDRA Newsletter, April 2006
The Role of Mentoring in Teacher Quality and Retention
Adela Solis, Ph.D., IDRA Newsletter, June-July 2004
Video: Learning While Teaching (A Conversation with New Teachers)
Through IDRA’s Transition to Teaching projects, with funding from the U.S. Department of Education, IDRA is partnering with more than 20 K-12 schools, colleges and universities across Texas to meet this need. Together, we are preparing a new generation of teachers in math, science, bilingual/ESL and special education. The women featured in this video series were participants in IDRA’s Caminos project, which prepares mid-career professionals and recent graduates as teachers with EC-6 bilingual/ESL certification, with an optional certification in special education.
“In addition to impacting my students, I was determined to impact my campus and peers as well. Regularly, I attended trainings and shared the knowledge I gained with fellow teachers. One training I found most informative – IDRA’s T3 ESL training. My excitement regarding what IDRA facilitator, Paula Johnson, taught us motivated me to share with my campus mentors. They sensed my enthusiasm and asked me to train our grade level leads on campus and provide them the tools I was given.”
– Pamela Davis, June 2015, IDRA Teachers for Today & Tomorrow (T3) graduate with Alamo Colleges ACP, is now a kindergarten teacher with Heritage Elementary School, Southside ISD
“I have often seen and heard of students who fall through the cracks and drop out of school because they could not identify with their teachers. My personal and educational experiences empower me to reach out to students and help them become educated, productive and successful. I’m so glad [programs like these] exist so that I can become a teacher and make my dreams come true.”
– Elvia Rosie Alaniz, June 2015, a graduate of IDRA Teachers for Today & Tomorrow (T3) Program with South Texas College is a first-grade bilingual teacher with Joaquin Castro Elementary School in Mission, Texas
“I want to have students that feel secure about themselves to know that they can do anything they dream. I want to develop in them a strong commitment to themselves and to others; a sense of being a unique and special individual, but at the same time a responsible member of the community, the whole world. As a teacher, my job is to facilitate those processes, to give the necessary resources, and especially to encourage them to occur with love and care. I found in IDRA’s Caminos program, an extraordinary opportunity to get prepared for one of the most fulfilling careers.”
– Silvia Villacorta, IDRA Caminos participant and bilingual kindergarten teacher, Casa View Elementary School in Dallas, 2014
“Yo quise ser maestra para poder ayudarlos a completar sus sueños.”
“I wanted to be a teacher to help them fulfill their dreams.”
– Cecily Flores, IDRA Transitions participant, speaking about her bilingual pre-kindergarten students at Edgewood ISD in San Antonio
IDRA’s Transition to Teaching Projects
IDRA’s Caminos project prepared teachers with a combined bilingual/ESL and special education certification to teach in high-need school districts. It was designed to transition professionals and recent graduates who have excelled in other fields into teaching in high-need schools. Upon acceptance into Caminos, participants began the teacher preparation and certification process, including training, coursework and a (paid) teaching internship in a partner school.
The Transitions project prepared and helped certify recent graduates and mid-career professionals to become bilingual/ESL elementary teachers. The project supported teacher preparation and certification through alternative teacher certification routes for bilingual and Spanish-dominant career-changing professionals and recent college graduates – in fields other than education – who desire to enter teaching and have a specific interest in bilingual education. Recruitment included professionals from Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries who were legal residents and can work in the United States.
Through Teachers for Today and Tomorrow (T3), we and our partners prepared and placed teachers in multicultural settings who bring a passion for teaching and innovation in bilingual/ESL and STEM subjects. IDRA developed a curriculum to certify teachers in bilingual/ESL and STEM subjects in mostly Latino communities and provided a comprehensive online and personalized support system to retain teachers for a minimum of three years. T3 also is expanding the candidate pool to include paraprofessionals, a key feature of a “grow your own” recruitment strategy.Through Math and Science Smart (MASS), we prepared and placed middle and high school math and science teachers with ESL supplemental endorsement in 10 high-need Texas school districts. MASS is providing pre-service training for math and science teachers with an ESL certification, assisting in placing successful applicants as teacher interns or new teachers with an emergency certification, and providing specialized support and high quality in-service training during the certification process and one year beyond.
The Bilingual Education Collaborating Alliance (BECA) was a three-year program to alleviate the severe shortage of bilingual education and ESL teachers in Texas. The project supported teacher preparation and certification through alternative teacher certification routes for bilingual and Spanish dominant career-changing professionals and recent college graduates – in fields other than education – who desire to enter teaching and have a specific interest in bilingual education. A special focus of the project was recruitment of professionals from Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries who are legal residents and can work in the United States. Eighty-five qualified bilingual and Spanish-dominant mid-career professionals and recent college graduates interested in becoming bilingual education or ESL teachers were trained, certified and placed in bilingual classrooms as a result of the program.
IDRA’s Texas – Teacher Excellence for All Students (T-TExAS) project was a five-year project designed to increase the number of bilingual and English as a second language (ESL) teachers in Texas districts with high numbers of English language learners. The project supported teacher preparation and certification through alternative teacher certification routes for bilingual and Spanish-dominant career-changing professionals and recent college graduates – in fields other than education – who wanted to enter teaching and have a specific interest in bilingual education. Recruitment included professionals from Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries who are legal residents and can work in the United States.
IDRA’s Alianza Project was a unique project served as the precursor to the Transition to Teaching programs funded by the U.S. Department of Education. In 1998, IDRA and the Mexican and American Solidarity Foundation created a model teacher preparation and leadership development program with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. This binational effort enabled more than 300 teachers to become leaders in bilingual and bicultural settings. Within the first four years, 70 Alianza graduates were positively impacting more than 6,000 children in bilingual classrooms and reducing the shortage of bilingual education teachers in Texas alone by 10 percent. Participating universities in several states expanded their bilingual curricula to include courses of study and practical experiences that enhance the abilities of teachers, parents, administrators, school board members, and community leaders to collaborate effectively. Alianza also enhanced the capacity of Latino and non-Latino students and educators to speak Spanish and work in cross-cultural environments – abilities that are essential to success in the 21st century.
Alianza targeted teacher aides who are bilingual, traditional students in teacher-preparation programs in universities, and normalistas who are legal U.S. residents who were teachers in México. Alianza also equipped educational systems to prepare teachers and other educators to perform effectively in bilingual, binational and bicultural contexts.
For more information see the Alianza web page.
Also see Alianza: Our Legacy and Our Future (PDF).
Coaching and Mentoring and Professional Development to Lead
No matter how well prepared, for the brand new teacher, the first year on campus can be tough. IDRA’s coaching and mentoring model, which pairs novice and seasoned teachers, helps new teachers not only to survive but to take up leadership as advocates for all students’ success. Mentors are trained in culturally-proficient coaching to help new teachers respond to highly diverse classrooms, and in the process they become trusted advisors, role models and co-teachers. At the same time, IDRA provides coaching, in-class demonstrations and training that strengthens teacher efficacy. Through professional sessions, platicas, for teachers, we cover strategies for working with second language learners, classroom management and hands-on content area instruction. IDRA also prepares mentors to work with the new teachers through classroom demonstrations, co-teaching, identifying mentoring needs, engaging students and effective parent engagement.
Online Community of Educators
IDRA’s online Community of Educators network complements in-person professional development sessions and coaching and mentoring. The network also provides teachers with new research and data, and encourages the exchange of lessons and experiences to support work in classrooms and on campuses. Three hundred and seventy members strong, this cross-disciplinary network of teachers earning certification in bilingual/ESL, STEM, mathematics and special education, is a place for exchanging resources, curricula, proven practices and stories of success.
IDRA Transition to Teaching Partner School Districts, Colleges and Universities*
Fort Worth ISD
Mt. Pleasant ISD
San Antonio ISD
South San Antonio ISD
La Joya ISD
Los Fresnos CISD
San Benito CISD
Point Isabel ISD
Eagle Pass ISD
Ector County ISD
Fort Worth ISD
George Gervin Academy
Higgs Carter King Charter School
IDEA Public Schools
La Joya ISD
Our Lady of the Lake University
Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD
Rio Grande CCISD
South Texas College
St. Thomas University
Tarleton State University
Texas A&M University at San Antonio
Texas State University
Texas State University
Texas Woman’s University
University of North Texas
and additional high-need school districts in the San Antonio and Laredo area
Fort Worth ISD
Houston ACP serving Houston ISD
Laredo Community College ACP
Northwest Vista College ACP
Our Lady of the Lake University
Pasadena ACP serving Pasadena ISD
Tarleton State University
Teach for Dallas ACP serving Dallas ISD
University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg, Texas
Southwest Texas State University
*Partnerships varied with each individual project due to each project’s goals and time of operation
Partners in this extraordinary journey are listed on the Alianza web page.