By Steffany Gutierrez
The Council for Teaching and Learning, a collaboration between the School of Education and area school districts took place Jan. 26 on the campus of A&M-San Antonio to continue its mission for improved teacher preparation in the San Antonio area. The quarterly meeting was the Council’s second gathering and focused primarily on the background process of the excellence in teacher preparation initiative (“Ready on Day 1”) and future activities such as the fall 2011 pilot of the teaching and learning model sites. Among its many objectives, the Council seeks to focus on teacher preparation and create a forum where staff, administrators and educators from different educational settings as well as community organizations can gain feedback on each others’ performance and expectations, said Dr. Beto Gonzalez, division head for the School of Education and Kinesiology, in an email.
The Council also supports students by offering opportunities to experience hands on application of their skills by committing their time to a specific district and working with teachers in the field by getting both theory and model skills firsthand.
“We want to give students as much exposure as possible,” said Mishaleen Allen, assistant professor of curriculum and science. During the Council’s working breakfast meetings, university representatives provide support and review expectations of graduating teachers while also collaborating with colleges on qualities needed from transfer students. In addition, college representatives discuss the expectations from graduates in the several high school districts that form part of the initiative.
Council members include instructional administration faculty as well as teacher representatives from within Bexar County and surrounding areas partnering with TAMU-SA in the Teaching and Learning for Success Initiative, aiming to provide a forum for dialogue and stakeholder participation.
“It is neat to see how these people interact, collaborate and provide feedback to one another,” Allen said. “Everybody feels they are a participant, a stakeholder and that they are being heard.”
Participating Council members say the the university is a key player in preparing the city’s future teachers.
“TAMU-SA provides many opportunities for Southwest ISD to give input and feedback as to what we need for future teachers and this is a critical component in preparing future and current teachers,” said Dr. Jeanette Ball, assistant superintendent of administration and human resources at Southwest ISD. “The collaboration of TAMU-SA and the districts is also critical since state and local mandates are always changing, and it is important for both parties to work together to align what teachers need in order to be successful.”
What once began as a small feedback focus group of education and collaboration has nowexpanded into a collaborative effort that covers 11 school districts and the School of Excellence in Education, an open-enrollment charter school.
Formerly known as the Blueprint for Success Model, the Council was developed by A&M-San Antonio president, Dr. Maria Hernandez Ferrier, in collaboration with local education agencies, the Alamo Community College District and community partners such as Head Start. The Council, which serves as the instructional leadership component of the TAMU-SA EC-20 Initiative began in the summer of 2009.
“This initiative would not be in place without Dr. Ferrier’s vision for TAMU-SA to be one of the premiere teaching institutes in the country,” Allen said. “In the past, the Council has covered important topics such as the Graduate Alternative Certification Program, and revisions of the curriculum among others.”
Topics covered in the Council are far-ranging, including improved methods for obtaining feedback on how graduate student teachers perform during their first years in the field as well as the Pyramid for Teaching and Learning Success, a model that maps the skill sets of effective teachers.
Although the initiative is just two years old, the impact has already provided significant resources for administrators like Ball.
“In my current role I am consistently looking for great teachers. We (SWISD) want the best for our students and it is my job to go after the best candidates and I know that TAMU-SA has the best candidates for teachers,” Ball said. “They are well prepared with a rigorous and relevant curriculum. [The University] knows what it takes to prepare candidates to be ready to go into the classroom. They have the book knowledge and also classroom experience to make them the best for our students at SWISD.”
Continual change in teaching models make the Council a welcome forum for district members who need a forum to explore trends in teacher preparation. Council members make frequent assessments and updates based on changes.
“We are constantly evaluating, reflecting and refining,” Allen said.
“It is anticipated that summer training institutes will include additional stakeholder participation (which would include LEA teachers as well as TAMU-SA faculty and students selected to participate in the Fall 2011 pilot sites,” Gonzalez said.
The Council will hold summer planning and training institutes during the summer term.