Accelerated teaching program off to good start

The OC2UTPB Teaching in 3 program, which sprang from the region’s desperate need for teachers, is on its way to graduating its first class in 2022.

Larry Daniel, dean of the College of Education at UTPB, said the program started in fall 2019. The first students were recruited at Odessa College.

“We received that first group of students this current spring, so they are brand new with us. We do eight-week courses, half semester courses for that group, so they are right at the point of completing the first set of courses,” Daniel said.

“The early indication is they’re off to a good start. We, meaning UTPB, had already interacted with them quite a bit before they actually transitioned over. That’s been a real hallmark of the program is having the students as an identified cohort. As the four-year institution, it’s a lot easier for us to go visit with them at a group meeting rather than try to see them individually. With the typical transfer student, we’re relying on individual contacts with students. This has been a nice way to improve communication with the students,” Daniel added.

There are 44 in the first group, although there were closer to 50 initially. Daniel said some students didn’t start right away, which is not atypical.

“We’ve agreed in the program if someone comes back in, we’ll just pull them in with the new cohort so we certainly would accommodate those few students that have not fully made the transition yet. But we are actually up in enrollment in the College of Education by around 60 students compared to last spring. So if you consider that we’ve got 44 that have come in through this program, the majority of our growth in folks interested in our education programs are coming from OC2UTPB, so it’s very successful in that sense it appears we are getting a group of students that we might not have gotten otherwise. …”

He thanked OC for the excellent job they did in recruiting students and being great partners.

“We’re getting really high quality students with this program, and obviously we’ve worked with Odessa College for many, many years and are quite accustomed to getting transfer students in from their campus. They’ve got a good reputation of working very well with UTPB. The students tend to do well. They tend to be ready for the work here in the last two years, which is for this program a year and a half. It is accelerated, but our faculty has been pleased with the overall quality of students we’ve seen so far.”

The first cohort would graduate in spring 2022.

“That would be our first full group to go through the program having participated both at Odessa College and here, so that will put them on that three-year cycle that we’ve promised to get finished. Now if any of them need extra time, their schedule may not allow them to keep the pace of the coursework, we will either pull them into the next cohort or we could just move them through as we would atypical transfer student,” Daniel said.

“We work with transfer students a lot, but we do have options for anyone who finds the pace is a little bit too frenetic for them. It is fast paced when you’re cramming four years of coursework into three. Some students are 100 percent ready and go through it with flying colors…,” he added.

Others may find that as the coursework begins to unfold, there are a lot of demands on their time and they may need more time.

“We’re very flexible,” Daniel said. “Our ultimate goal is to get them graduated with a teaching degree. Second would be to keep them on track with their cohort and we hope all 44 will stay together throughout the remainder of the program.”

He noted that cohort programs have advantages because everyone knows everyone well.

“The students seem to be more comfortable in class with discussions and things of that nature because they’ve gotten to know everybody else in class already. By the time they’re in the last couple of semesters, we all know each other, we’re not afraid to say anything that really we want to say, that needs to be brought out in a discussion so I think we’re clearly seeing that benefit of moving the students through as a cohort already,” Daniel said.

Although he refers to the students as a single cohort, a day cohort and an evening cohort are offered.

“The day students are more likely to be your traditional college age. The evening are more likely to be non-traditional students, so we’re actually getting both types,” Daniel said.

“Our next cohort which will be coming in in January of 2022 … They’ve got 47 in that group currently. We’re hoping, again, that we’ll be able to preserve that full group. … The third cohort, we’re projecting that we will get them in August of 2022,” he added.

Student Kaitlin Bryant said she’s always loved teaching others.

“When learning about the program, I was excited about the possibility of reaching my lifelong dream of becoming an educator and the shortened time frame for completion so that I could complete my course and be able to get into the classroom quicker where there is such a need for teachers,” Bryant said in an email. “I am one who has younger cousins that I often help with their schoolwork, as well as tutor their friends. Additionally, as a current support staff district employee attendance clerk at San Jacinto Middle School, I see firsthand the need for more teachers.”

Since earning her associate degree in early childhood education from OC, she’s transitioned to UTPB where she plans to take a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education specializing in math.

“My experience has been positive as everyone is helpful in making sure that I have the tools and resources to meet the programs objectives. I particularly love how smooth the transition between the two schools has been,” Bryant said.