As part of a new federally funded program, a group of highly trained, well-prepared educators from the University of Houston will soon help ease current and chronic challenges that surround teacher recruitment and retention. The immediate focus will target the Houston-area elementary schools where the teacher-shortage pinch is felt most keenly.
The rigorous program – known as the University of Houston Partnership to Develop Equity-Minded Educators (UH PDEE) – will appeal to highly motivated individuals ready to take on its fast-paced learning and practice experience. Participants will receive financial support through the training process.
The addition expands the UH College of Education’s ever-increasing number of pathways into the teaching profession. The variety serves not only traditional college students, but also reaches out to people with career experience in fields that are much sought-after in the classroom, such as mathematics and related subjects.
“This opportunity was especially designed for bachelor’s degree holders – both recent college grads and those who have established careers – who now recognize their calling to teach and even pursue leadership positions in education,” said program director Jeannette D. Alarcón, UH associate professor of curriculum and instruction. The five-year program is funded by a $3.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
UH PDEE will follow a well-established residency model, but it is unique because participants (referred to as teacher-residents) receive a living-wage stipend during the residency year and will be employed by the partnering school district, upon certification, for the following three years. The residency consists of one year of co-teaching alongside the mentor teacher, allowing for clinical experience from the beginning of the program.
Teaching certificates are fully earned at the end of the first 12 months. Master’s degree requirements (30 hours of advanced coursework) cover the following year, and mentorships continue for an additional two years.
“Our Houston community will benefit from the reliable employment pipeline the UH PDEE program will build. The classroom-ready teachers will be qualified to meet the needs of our region through instructional practices aimed at ensuring that students receive the academic support they need. We will accomplish this through an emphasis in elementary mathematics teaching to support STEM learning. The program includes Spanish for Teachers coursework to enable better communication with students and parents,” Alarcón noted.
But before the classroom journey can begin, these future teachers must become students, themselves, devoting their first months to learning in special UH classrooms with technology that presents mixed-reality experiences. In their lessons, they will interact with live-action avatars to practice teaching methods.
These mixed-reality practice sessions will guide participants just starting to hone the vital new skills that will empower them to succeed as leaders in real-life classrooms filled with curious elementary students.
“We are excited to bring this program to Houston at this particular time. Given the current need for more teachers who have high skill levels in mathematics teaching, the moment is right for this opportunity,” Alarcón said.