TEA Announcements

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College to host 300 future educators at TAFE conference

Next month the UNT College of Education will for the first time host the Texas Association of Future Educators North Texas regional conference, welcoming 300 high school students with dreams of becoming educators. The conference is set for Friday, Dec. 1, in the University Union and Matthews Hall.

Jeanne Tunks, associate professor of Teacher Education and Administration and one of the faculty advisors for the college’s honor society, Kappa Delta Pi, along with Cynthia Molina, president of the KDP chapter, have been working with Leah Zavala, a Denton ISD teacher and leader of Denton’s TAFE chapter, to bring the conference to the UNT campus. The partnership is an opportunity not only for high school students to learn more about UNT’s education program, but also for KDP members to gain mentorship experience, Tunks says.

Currently, 13 UNT KDP members are mentoring 33 Denton ISD TAFE members, giving them valuable insight on what to expect when they get to college, Tunks says.

“The goal of TAFE is to get kids actually into school classrooms and thinking about what it takes to be a teacher before they ever arrive at a college of education. They’re in the field watching teachers teach, learning from them,” she says. “With our Kappa Delta Pi mentoring program, we’re teaching them how to be college students. Many are first-generation, so we’re hoping to give them information they can really use as they transition from high school to college.”

The UNT mentors meet once a week with their high school counterparts – in addition to frequent communication via text and group chat – to discuss theory and practice.

“The whole notion is that these students are thinking way ahead of their years about what it’s like to be a teacher,” Tunks says, adding that she and her KDP co-sponsor, Assistant Professor Ricardo Gonzalez-Carriedo, don’t direct the students in their mentorships; instead, they support and entrust the mentorship project to the KDP leadership.

“We as sponsors don’t designate anything. We promote and encourage, but it’s really up to the students to organize the structure and lead it,” she says. “We’re trying to grow the qualities of teacher-leaders.”

At the December conference, TAFE members from across the region will compete in teaching exercises including creating lesson plans and books. UNT faculty, KDP members and other COE students will serve as judges.

The competitive tasks will challenge students to think quickly and creatively – and give them an idea of what classroom teaching is really like, says Tunks, who has served as a judge at previous TAFE conferences.

“It takes your breath away to see the creativity of these high school students and what they’re able to create. It was exceptional,” she says. “This experience challenges them and really helps them determine whether teaching is something they want to pursue.”

Learn more about TAFE, and read about some recent accomplishments of UNT’s KDP chapter.

 

Above, current KDP officers and members with advisor Assistant Professor Ricardo Gonzalez-Carriedo.

School leaders learn innovative coaching strategies at COE conference

The 34th annual UNT Educational Leadership Conference organized by Assistant Professor Miriam Ezzani and Principal Lecturer Linda Stromberg of the College of Education’s Department of Teacher Education and Administration brought together 150 teachers and leaders from schools and districts across North Texas Nov. 8. The focus of this year’s conference was “Transforming Culture Through Leadership Coaching.”

Mike Moses, former superintendent of Dallas ISD and onetime commissioner of education for the state of Texas, gave the keynote address, encouraging attendees to be the kind of leaders who build a climate of energy and enthusiasm in their schools.

“As educators, we’re interested in improving the quality of life for kids, but we’re also interested in the growth and happiness of adults so they can help kids grow,” he said. “I think that teachers want to work in organizations where they feel gratified, excited and enthusiastic, but they also want to work with people who are invested in their professional development.”

Moses said paying attention to national polls, voting patterns, educational trends and technology, among other factors, will help educators build a legacy of leadership that will make today’s young children tomorrow’s successful adults. He also stressed the importance of mentorship.

“If mentors in my life were interested in my goals, dreams and aspirations, and wanted me to be happy, I would knock myself out for them,” he said. “That’s creating an environment of leadership. Be about the business of creating environments that are nurturing, affirming and encouraging.”

Conference participants were challenged to consider concepts and skills in leadership coaching offered by the presenters Kathryn Kee and Lloyd Sain. Kee and Sain are national trainers through Results Coaching Global. They engaged the participants in research-based learner centered activities intended to cultivate powerful communication skills.

“I believe most attendees were fascinated with the connection between leadership coaching and how one can regulate one’s and others’ emotions in the moment,” Ezzani said. “Our conference topics are focused on theory to practice connections and solutions, which makes this annual conference so beneficial to educational leaders at the school and district level.”   

Participants said the conference offered relevant lessons they could immediately implement on their campuses.

“The content of this conference was right on target, and the opportunity to practice some of the coaching strategies was extremely impactful,” said one bilingual/ESL interventionist.

 

Above, COE Dean Randy Bomer presents a gift to Mike Moses, former Dallas ISD superintendent and Texas commissioner of education.

Educational Leadership Conference aims to deliver leadership insights

By Raquel Talamantes

The annual UNT Educational Leadership Conference, designed for leadership professionals in the education world, will this year focus on “Transforming Culture Through Leadership Coaching” and will feature a keynote speech by former Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Moses. The conference is set for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 8, 2017, in the Gateway Center on the UNT campus.

“Anyone in a leadership position would benefit from this all-day session — district leaders, school leaders, teacher leaders as well as university faculty and staff who hold leadership positions,” said Miriam Ezzani, UNT College of Education assistant professor in district and school reform.

The conference aims to address timely topics about which educators should be aware, Ezzani said.

“For instance, last year's conference was on cultural proficiency,” she said. “We seek the advice of our superintendent advisory council, made up of superintendents in the DFW Metroplex, who suggest topics that are geared toward addressing problems of practice in K-12 public educators.”

Keynote speaker Moses has had over 30 years of experience in the education/administration field. UNT is also home to the Mike Moses Endowed Chair in Educational Leadership, currently held by Elizabeth Murakami.

“From 1999 through 2001, he served as the deputy chancellor for Systems Operations at the Texas Tech University System,” Ezzani said.  “Dr. Moses was the commissioner of education for the state of Texas from 1995 through 1999. Prior to that service, he was the superintendent of schools in three Texas school districts: Lubbock, LaMarque and Tatum. He also served as a teacher and principal in the Duncanville and Garland ISDs.”

Also at the conference, Kathryn M. Kee, a national trainer for Cognitive Coaching, and Lloyd Sain, a former director of Leadership and Teacher Development for an urban district, will host a coaching workshop. They will lead group activities designed to transform culture through leadership coaching.

To find out more about the Educational Leadership Conference, visit www.coe.unt.edu/conferences/2017-education-leadership-conference

COE professor training next generation of tech-savvy teachers

Teachers and parents can sometimes be skeptical about using portable technology like iPads as an educational tool. Are children really learning, or just playing? Will it encourage kids to play video games non-stop? 

Lauren Eutsler is working to change that negative perception.

Eutsler, an assistant professor in the UNT College of Education and a former elementary teacher, wants to prepare pre-service teachers to use technology in a way that improves school performance and builds on what today’s tech-savvy kids already use at home.

“When I was teaching, my mantra was always, ‘If you want to be a better reader, be a reader.’ Students won’t improve unless they’re engaged and involved,” Eutsler said. “Technology is a fantastic way to motivate them to read, but teachers have to think about it and plan – it has to align with standards, and you have to be knowledgeable about which apps are most appropriate for each lesson.”

Research as a Student

In her research, Eutsler doesn’t just observe the use of technology in the classroom – she looks at the cognitive side of why we adapt technology, when does it make sense to use it, and why is it useful. This focus took shape during her doctoral education at the University of Florida, when she worked with two Florida elementary schools to understand parents’ intentions to adopt portable technology to help their children learn to read at home. While collecting this dissertation research, a first-grade teacher reached out to her department for help integrating 1:1 iPads into her classroom.

Over the course of two years, Eutsler and the teacher developed a collaborative relationship that allowed them to observe what didn’t work – and what did.

“At first the teacher wanted to control how the kids used the technology, and that just didn’t work well,” Eutsler said. “Once she let go, the students thrived, and the things they were able to create were amazing. We had first-graders learning how to code, developing their literacy skills through coding.

“I learned a lot about how teachers are challenged in using technology, but also how it can be a productive and beneficial tool to elevate kids’ learning.”

In the UNT Classroom

Since joining the UNT faculty last year, Eutsler has embarked on a project with her Reading and Writing Birth-Grade 6 (EDRE 4450) class to get her students prepared for careers as tech-savvy educators. Eutsler acquired 10 iPads through Willis Library and — using experience gleaned from parent surveys revealing technology adoption intentions and children’s use, practices of current teachers, and her own experience in the classroom — is training her students to explore how specific apps can be authentic tools to develop children’s literacy skills.

The UNT students attend hands-on iPad workshops throughout the semester, where they focus on specific reading skills and find apps that help them create lesson plans and develop assignments. Most are surprised to find that using technology in the classroom is easier than they expected, Eutsler said.

“Of my students, 67 percent have an iPad, 87 percent have an iPhone, but none of them had used them as an educational technology tool. And that’s why I’m doing this,” she said. “You get into the classroom, and you have teachers who have access to these things but they don’t know how to use them as educational tools.

“We need to be teaching our teachers how technology can bolster their teaching, specifically how to make the device work to their advantage. We’re selling them short if we don’t give them those hands-on tech experiences.”

What’s Next?

In the future, Eutsler wants to explore using Twitter to help pre-service and practicing teachers, parents and kids stay connected, but she also wants to work on getting more researchers like herself into classrooms to work one on one with teachers.

“That can be difficult,” Eutsler said, “because school districts don’t always have a clear pathway to collaborating with outside organizations. But partnerships between teachers and researchers could yield results benefiting the teachers and their students.

“A lot of teachers say they don’t have time. Time is the biggest constraint. That’s where higher education researchers can help,” she said. “We can work alongside teachers and see what their challenges are and how we can use technology to leverage deeper learning.”

Right now, Eutsler plans to continue training pre-service teachers who are knowledgeable, competent and ready to promote tech in the classroom.

“Sometimes parents get scared because they think kids are just playing games. They’re not — they’re learning,” she said. “Print books are not going away. This is just another method to delve more deeply into the text and motivate students to develop their literacy skills.”

$2.7 million grant opens opportunities for TEA students

The University of North Texas’ College of Education will use a $2.7 million grant to enhance instruction for English language learners in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District. 

The Title III National Professional Development Project SUCCESS is a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education awarded to Rossana Boyd, director of the Bilingual/ESL Teacher Education Program, as principal investigator and Ricardo Gonzalez-Carriedo, assistant professor, as co-principal investigator. Both work in UNT’s Department of Teacher Education and Administration.

“We want to make content comprehensible to English learners,” said Gonzalez-Carriedo.

He said he will recruit 15 UNT students pursing teaching certification in bilingual instruction and English as a second language to participate in professional development on how to develop culturally responsive lessons and alternate assessments and how to use the state’s English language proficiency standards.

UNT students also will work with teachers in grades PreK-2 from Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD to help plan and implement activities that will guide Latino parents on how to help their children with literacy and biliteracy development.

“Generally, our students do not work with parents and community members until they are in student teaching, so this is a unique opportunity for our students,” Boyd said. “Also, in many cases our students have not been exposed to someone whose native language is not English. This experience will open their minds to new cultures and help them develop an understanding of how to serve and work with a different population.”

The grant also will provide professional development for 245 dual language and content teachers in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD. This includes providing bilingual books for libraries in 15 schools during the next five years.

 “We want to enhance instructional services for English language learners in this ISD and anywhere else our teachers end up going,” Boyd said.

 

Pictured, Rossana Boyd.

COE alumnua, former TE&A faculty member named director of Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of North Texas has named a new director to shape the future of its lifelong learning efforts.

Stephanie Reinke, formerly with the university’s College of Education in the Department of Teacher Education and Administration, said she is thrilled to be joining OLLI at UNT at such an exciting time.

“We are currently offering our members more course offerings ─ over 100 this fall ─ more distinguished faculty and more classroom locations than ever before,” said Reinke.

UNT established the Emeritus College, now known as OLLI at UNT, in 2009 to formalize its lifelong learning initiatives. The success of that venture made the university one of 120 programs in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute network. OLLI at UNT offers courses to the 50 and over population on the UNT campus, at Robson Ranch located near Denton and at the UNT New College in Frisco.

OLLI at UNT is currently in the midst of a campaign to hit a membership goal that would make it eligible for a $1 million endowment from the Osher Foundation.

 “I plan to not only hit our membership goal, but find new and exciting ways for our current and prospective members to become and remain engaged,” said Reinke. “Now is the time to get involved with OLLI at UNT.”

The Bernard Osher Foundation, headquartered in San Francisco, was founded in 1977 by businessman and community leader, Bernard Osher. The foundation seeks to improve quality of life through support for higher education and the arts.

 For more information about how to join OLLI at UNT, contact Reinke at Stephanie.reinke@unt.edu or 940-565-3487.

North Texas teachers, students spend summer honing skills

While students were enjoying their break, more than 3,000 teachers used the summer months to improve their craft. Through the National Writing Project (NWP), teachers across the country, including hundreds in North Texas, worked face-to-face and in online communities to share and learn new ways to teach writing, engage colleagues and enhance their leadership.

In Dallas-Fort Worth, the North Star of Texas Writing Project, led by UNT College of Education faculty member Carol Wickstrom, provided professional development for more than 200 teachers and writing camps for more than 500 students. In June, students attended weeklong writing camps to strengthen their writing performance on the state-mandated STAAR test. Using the project’s Finding True North Lesson Frameworks, campers were able to bolster their writing confidence.  

Throughout the summer, teachers attended a variety of events including Invitational Writing Institutes held in Denton, Gainesville, Keller and Waxahachie. Using a writing workshop approach, these teachers received 40 hours of professional development and a set of professional books. Other teachers attended workshops including a Human Rights Institute, Implementing Writing in the Secondary Classroom Workshop, an Advanced Writing Instruction Institute, and an Expository Writing Institute (sponsored by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board) in Mesquite.

“Participating in these writing institutes and workshops supports teachers as they improve their classroom practices to meet their students’ needs,” Wickstrom said. “Their participation in this work helps them grow as educators and learners and provides a gateway into the larger network of teachers, administrators and leaders in NWP. The NWP network is one that continues to support the growth of its members.”

NWP programs serving all 50 states provided classroom teachers deep and broad content and innovative approaches, anchored in improving instruction for today's young people. From collaborative work on argument writing in the NWP College, Career and Community Writers Program (C3WP) to youth programs aimed at sparking student interest and authentic learning experiences, these experiences aimed to get teachers excited to return to classrooms and share what they learned.  

Teachers who attended these NWP programs joined a nationwide professional network of educators (young children through higher education) focused on high-quality, effective and sustained professional development to improve the teaching of writing and learning in classrooms across the country, said Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, NWP executive director.

"NWP teacher leaders work using our evidence-based programs to help their students become better writers and learners," she said. "They also develop their own skills and capacities to work with colleagues to improve education and the profession more broadly.”  

Advancing the national scale-up of NWP’s College, Career and Community Writers Program, 80 local Writing Project sites held Advanced Institutes to provide professional development in middle and high schools serving urban, rural and other high-need communities across the country. The goal of the program is to assure more teachers can support students’ growth in reading and writing skills, with a specific emphasis on writing arguments based on nonfiction texts. In one of the largest and most rigorous studies of teacher professional development, SRI International found that this work has a positive, statistically significant impact on student writing.

Beyond this initiative, the NWP network of local sites, teacher leaders and programs encompass multiple disciplines — English, math, science, art, civics, history — and spaces beyond the classroom: online communities, after-school programs, museums and libraries. Through these partnerships, Writing Project sites extend the reach of their work to dedicated educators developing next-generation curriculum and learning opportunities that support all young people as writers and creators.

"We know through research that programs designed and delivered by NWP sites have a positive effect on the writing achievement of students across grade levels, schools and contexts,” Eidman-Aadahl said. “Now is the time to continue to support this ongoing, high-quality professional development for teachers, principals and school leaders."

UNT education honor society wins national awards

The University of North Texas chapter of Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), an international honor society in education, won three national awards for the 2016-17 school year. The chapter, co-counseled by College of Education faculty members Ricardo González and Jeanne Tunks, earned the 2016-2017 Gold Literacy Alive! award for the chapter’s project Variety is the Spice of Life; the 2016-2017 Achieving Chapter Excellence Award; and the 2016-2017 Distinguished Chapter Officer Award for the chapter’s president, Cynthia Molina.

The awards will be presented at the 51st Biennial Convocation in Pittsburgh Oct. 26-28. Additionally, several members of the Alpha Iota chapter will present their accepted sessions at the conference.

“We are very proud of the outstanding work of our officers and members as they strive to achieve KDP’s mission of advancing quality education by inspiring teachers to prepare all learners for future challenges,” González said.

Gonzalez said UNT’s KDP chapter has always been very involved with students and professionals in education. Last year, the chapter organized two regional workshops for pre- and in-service teachers, one focusing on leadership in the schools and the other on culturally relevant teaching and leading. The chapter also organized a literacy night at one of Denton’s elementary schools. The Literacy Alive! event targeted bilingual students through a series of fun activities and the donation of hundreds of books in English and Spanish, Gonzalez said. 

“The chapter is led by a group of very dedicated students who, in every occasion, show a passion for education. KDP is helping these future teachers not only become excellent educators, but also to be the caring leaders of our future schools,” he said. “KDP, through its awards, recognizes the desire to shine and become the type of educators that our diverse student body population needs.”

Stephanie Camacho, UNT KDP vice president, said the College of Education paved the way for the group’s members to succeed.

“UNT serves its students with quality education, and the college gives us a foundation in which we can grow both as individuals and as professionals,” she said. “These awards are a mere representation of hard work, quality and passion, all of which the COE has taught us to embody.”  

Current officers include Molina, Camacho, Azurell Thomas (secretary), Maria Beaudoin (historian), Lucas Horton (treasurer), Alexandra Schrunk (membership), Tressa Roberts (foundations) and Andreia Jackson (graduate student liaison).

KDP is open to undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty by invitation only. The UNT chapter won the bi-annual ACE award in 2015, 2013, 2011 and 2009. In 2016, the chapter earned an outstanding officer award, program award and silver for Literacy Alive!. The chapter also earned outstanding officer awards in 2014 and ’15 and earned the Program of the Year Award in spring 2017 for facilitating the regional workshop titled Culturally Relevant Teaching and Leading.

For more information, visit www.coe.unt.edu/kappa-delta-pi.

 

Above, KDP officers with advisors Ricardo González and Jeanne Tunks.

Project NEXUS offers professional development for current and future teachers

This fall, the UNT College of Education will offer pre-service teachers a workshop and review sessions that will help them better connect with English learners in Texas schools. The professional development opportunities are part of the Department of Teacher Education and Administration’s Project NEXUS, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Education for the past five and a half years. 

Project NEXUS is a unique collaborative partnership between UNT, five schools from Denton ISD, five schools from Lewisville ISD, and the Texas Education Agency’s Region 10 Education Service Center.  Through this partnership, the project has been able to provide high-quality professional development for 200 in-service teachers, 15 UNT teacher education faculty members and 150 UNT pre-service teachers, said Rossana Boyd, director of the project and COE principal lecturer. 

The professional development has focused on how teachers can enhance their knowledge and skills to teach mathematics and science to English learners (ELs) in grades four through 12. English learners have difficulty accessing subject area content because they are learning English as their second language (ESL) at the same time, Boyd said.

In addition to giving current teachers and professors critical professional development, Project NEXUS workshops also help UNT students who are planning to become educators prepare for the Texas educator certification testing (TExES).

“Dozens of pre-service teachers have benefitted from attendance to TExES ESL and Bilingual Supplemental Test review sessions offered by the project in partnership with Region 10 ESC consultants Cynthia Jaird and Enrique Jolay,” said Daniela Balderas, Project NEXUS coordinator.

Project NEXUS has awarded $111,579.65 in scholarships for tuition and fees for courses related to teaching English learners to 55 mathematics, science or English as a Second Language pre-service teachers. This fall, 14 additional teachers will receive a scholarship award for $2,092 each, Boyd said.

Also, four in-service teachers from Denton ISD and Lewisville ISD have received scholarships through the project to pursue the Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction degree with a focus on ESL education at UNT. Three of these teachers will graduate in December.

Professional development sessions for pre-service teachers are set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, in UNT’s Wooten Hall. To register, students may contact Daniela Balderas at Daniela.Balderas@unt.edu or 940-565-2933.

 

Above, UNT mathematics and science pre-service teachers participated in a professional development workshop on educating English learners sponsored by Project NEXUS in August 2017.

UNT bilingual education scholarship program helps reduce shortage of bilingual teachers

According to the Texas Education Agency, the state continues to face a critical shortage of bilingual education teachers, and the enrollment of English learners in Texas public schools continues to increase each year. The UNT College of Education’s Bilingual/ESL Teacher Education Programs are working to fill the state’s needs, with some help from Texas Rep. Roberto Rivera Alonzo.

Alonzo, who represents Dallas District 104, continued his advocacy efforts for bilingual education and teachers this legislative session. Thanks to his efforts, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board awarded UNT $107,142 this academic year to distribute among eligible students seeking certification in bilingual education. 

Most students will receive awards of $5,400 each.

To qualify, applicants have to be admitted to the teacher preparation program, meet a minimum 3.0 grade point average, have financial need as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and have passing scores of the practice or actual Bilingual Target Language Proficiency Test.

“Providing financial assistance to 23 eligible bilingual teachers this year will help ensure that they complete the program, be prepared to serve English learners and their families and help narrow the supply/demand gap in our North Texas region,” said Rossana Boyd, director and principal lecturer of the Bilingual/ESL Teacher Education Programs at UNT.

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