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Local universities help train high school teachers

Profile image for By Jenna Duncan / Staff Writer
By Jenna Duncan / Staff Writer

During the summer months, local universities are focusing not just on educating their students but also on educating regional public school teachers through various initiatives and continuing education certification programs.

Various summer workshops and courses on campus offer additional training in teaching methods, lesson plans and hands-on learning, as university faculty members help prepare teachers for certification and the upcoming challenges of the new school year.

This week, two area workshops are scheduled — the Teacher Quality Professional Development program at North Central Texas College in Gainesville and the Fort Worth/Dallas Xtreem Science and Mathematics Institute at the University of North Texas.

The program at NCTC focuses on science and technology training for about 20 high school teachers, while the program at UNT has three sections for science and math teachers, with 86 teachers combined in the sections.

At UNT, the science portion of the institute has concluded its two-week workshop, but algebra and integrated algebra and geometry are continuing this week. After this summer, the groups of teachers will meet with the UNT faculty instructors once a month to ensure the skills they learn this summer are being implemented throughout the school year.

“What we do in training is give teachers hands-on experiences that they can take directly into the classroom,” said Colleen Eddy, a director of the program. “The teachers get the opportunity in having experience with the actual lessons they take into the classroom so they’re more likely to implement it into the classroom instead of just giving students the resources and materials.”

Also at UNT, some initiatives to train public school teachers begin when the future teachers are just students. Through the Teach North Texas program, for example, roughly 300 students who want to teach high school math and science take an alternative curriculum and begin student teaching their freshman year.

“It’s in great contrast to most teacher education classes,” said John Quintanilla, co-director of the program. “We work with schools from all the stages of the program — from the very first undergraduate classes as freshmen, the students go in to teach classes with very careful guidance.”

Each year, the program graduates between 30 and 40 students, Quintanilla said. Even after the students graduate, UNT continues to work with them to ensure success in the field and will conduct a two-day conference for graduates beginning Monday.

“This will be a very active workshop where teachers can think through the classes that they teach, and try to do things not just the old-fashioned way but to really take time to think through how they can make teaching more engaging,” he said. “Summer is a great time to do this because there isn’t that pressure to prepare the classroom for the next day.”

In addition to workshops and more formal training, Texas Woman’s University offers certification classes and test prep for all EC-12 educators for free or minimal cost throughout the summer.

For example, if a teacher wants to develop more career options, like becoming a principal or librarian, they can find free resources at TWU with individual training and $10 practice tests, said Peggy Malone, associate dean of the College of Professional Education.

“A lot of times in the summer, educators are wanting to add another certification or further develop their career plans, so we’re involved in helping them meet those career goals,” she said. “We support educators throughout Texas, but most specifically, in our service area.”

During the summer, TWU is also beginning to prepare for partnerships with local school districts for the upcoming year, Malone said. Last year, TWU partnered with the Dallas ISD to help first-year bilingual teachers, and officials are currently speaking with Denton High School about supporting an international baccalaureate program.

Public school educators are required to take professional development training and certifications regularly, and aside from what the Texas Education Agency and service centers can provide, the partnerships with local universities are important for teachers, said TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson.

“To keep their certification, teachers have to go through these continuing education courses,” Culbertson said. “It’s important because of all of the legislative changes happening in education, especially this session with the current trends and requirements, teachers need to effectively teach in their classrooms.”

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.