• July 20, 2019

OC, UTPB announce teacher program to curb shortage - Odessa American: Odessa College

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OC, UTPB announce teacher program to curb shortage

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Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2019 4:57 pm

Calling the teacher shortage in the Permian Basin a crisis, officials from Odessa College and University of Texas Permian Basin announced the OC2UTPB Teaching in 3 program Wednesday in the Zant Community Room at the Saulsbury Campus Center at OC.

The partnership is a new teaching career track program aimed at those who want to make a difference in youngsters’ lives through teaching.

Enrollment for the first cohort will be limited to 100 students who will have the option of taking day, evening or weekend courses. The three-year program will include a year and a half of OC courses followed by a year and a half of UTPB courses.

Most of the classes will take place on the OC campus.

Certification emphasis will be in early childhood through sixth grade with options or specialization, a news release said.

After completing the OC courses successfully, students will graduate with an associate of arts degree in teaching. Then after successfully completing their year and a half at UTPB, students will earn a bachelor of arts degree in multidisciplinary studies with an early childhood through sixth certification, the release said.

While OC Chief of Staff Robert Rivas said it is an exciting time to be in the Permian Basin with all the growth and prosperity, one of the things the college has learned from the school districts is that the schools are growing, too, which means more teachers are needed.

“What that means is that we have a lot more students and we need a lot more teachers,” Rivas said.

Jonathan Fuentes, executive dean for academic partnerships at OC, said the community has to think about the growth of the kindergarten through 12th grade system and in higher education, too.

“It’s a great opportunity for us,” Fuentes said. “While it comes with challenges, it really is a great opportunity because we believe we can give them a quality education in k to 12 and in higher education, too, here in the Permian Basin.”

Fuentes said the college was there to express its commitment to “doing more, to doing our part to solve the shortage.”

“What we have the learned the last few years is that we need more pipelines to teachers. We are not training teachers fast enough and we certainly are not training enough of them,” Fuentes said. “We also know the difficulty of recruiting from outside the Permian Basin. The high cost of living makes recruitment to the Permian Basin difficult. Instead, our goal is to grow our own here in Odessa and throughout the service area. We must bring more of our own into this noble profession and have them serve where they currently reside.”

Fuentes said the program will begin this fall, meaning that recruitment will start right away.

“While students will take on a full-time course load, students will focus on two courses at a time in an accelerated format. The certification emphasis will be EC (early childhood) through six. Initially, we look forward to offering our students a daytime, nighttime and weekend track doing our best to accommodate all schedules. Most courses will take place on the Odessa College campus ensuring a seamless transition to UT Permian Basin,” Fuentes said. “Courses will be face to face in Odessa and delivered via web conference to the rest of the service area,” he said.

“Finally, we’ve also given special care and attention to professional development. The components of that are students will be cohorted through the program. The sections will be project-based, problem-based, case study courses based on the AVID model. Instructors will model the type of teaching and learning that the aspiring teachers will need in their own (classrooms),” Fuentes said.

Clinical hours will be built in each semester so students understand their future work environment, he said. “Those already working school districts will be exempt from this requirement in most instances,” Fuentes said.

Students will compile a portfolio throughout the program, which will help with interviews at the end of the program.

Students also will undergo intense professional development before their first teaching assignment, Fuentes said.

“We have devoted special care and attention to the development of this program. We believe that we have developed a holistic approach to the training of teachers and we believe that our Teaching in 3 program will better serve the needs of our school districts and our k to 12 students throughout the Permian Basin. In the next few weeks, we will begin the work of recruiting students.

“We look forward to finding students who wish to enter this very noble profession, who care about their communities and who have a desire to change lives,” Fuentes said.

OC President Gregory Williams said tuition assistance will be available.

Willie Taylor, CEO of the Permian Basin Workforce Board, said education is the key to the future of Odessa.

“Between now and 2024, we’re going to probably need about 50,000 teachers throughout just the state of Texas,” Taylor said.

“We’re in a critical situation,” Williams said. “We really need to think about that this teacher shortage is a crisis and we need to start thinking that way and we need to then respond that way because it’s an emergency. I know we have a lot of people who are looking at it and talking about it and doing things to move it forward, but we need to all pitch in just a little bit more because as Robert mentioned there are a number of other programs that are doing ok, but they’re not doing enough.”

Newly installed Ector County ISD Superintendent Scott Muri said he thinks the program will help.

“Today is July 10th and today we have 425 teacher vacancies in our system,” Muri said. “He talked about the teacher shortage being a crisis and it is absolutely a crisis; it’s an emergency. We have to have quality people. Our students deserve that, so I’m thrilled at this opportunity.”

He added that the community has to work together to solve the crisis.

UTPB President Sandra Woodley said this is a great opportunity to meet a need in the community.

“We have to find a way to address the teacher shortage, so accelerating this program in this way is extremely important to the community and it’s extremely important to OC and also to UTPB. The mutual interest here is important,” Woodley said.

She added that while this program focuses on teachers, there would be others like it coming in the future.

“We’re only getting started on our ability to stoke that pipeline between OC and UTPB for students who want to get a bachelor’s degree,” Woodley said.

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