TEA Announcements

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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.

UNT offers local teachers summer science institute

The Univesity of North Texas recently gave three local teachers the opportunity to go back to school.

Syed Hussain Rizvi, far left, and doctoral candidate Kayode Oluwabunmi, center, both from the Department of Mechanical and Energy Engineering, give teachers participating in the Summer Science Institute ─ Mary Batalla, second from left, Jesus Sanchez Ontiveros, third from left, and Ladys Contreras, far right ─ a tour of the facilities in the College of Engineering at Discovery Park. 

The university hosted the teachers last month during the Summer Science Institute with the aim of helping them develop lesson plans in English and Spanish.

“The goal of the Summer Institute is for teachers to inspire their Hispanic students to engage more in the field of science especially given the shortage of Hispanic scientists in the U.S.,” said Ana Figueras, a graduate assistant in the Office of Bilingual/ESL Teacher Education in the UNT College of Education’s Department of Teacher Education and Administration.

This is the second year of the three-year interdisciplinary project funded by the National Science Foundation. In the final year next summer, the teachers who participated the first two years will be invited to spend a week on campus with some of their English learners for a summer science academy, said Rossana Boyd, a co-principal investigator of the project.

This year’s teachers, Ladys Contreras and Jesus Sanchez Ontiveros from Fort Worth ISD and Mary Batalla from Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD, learned about new research in the area of C-Lignin from doctoral fellows from  the BioDiscovery Institute in the College of Science and from the Department of Mechanical and Energy Engineering in the College of Engineering.

“The Science Teachers’ Summer Institute provides the participating teachers a unique opportunity to learn first-hand about current research that is helping to shape our world,” said Richard Dixon, director of the BioDiscovery Institute and distinguished research professor in the Department of Biological Sciences.

“This enables them to better engage with their students about how science impacts people’s lives, and to develop lesson plans that open the students’ eyes to possibilities beyond simply learning the science curriculum,” he said. “Conversely, the experience of working with top class teachers has provided my postdocs and graduate students valuable lessons in the importance of communicating their science to the next generation.”

COE teaching fellow receives award from State Bar of Texas

FeltsMark Felts, a graduate assistant and teaching fellow in the Department of Teacher Education and Administration, will receive the Honorary Leon Jaworski Award for Teaching Excellence from the State Bar of Texas Law-Related Education Department.

Felts is in the last year of his doctoral studies and will graduate in spring 2018. He is a Teacher Education and Administration student majoring in curriculum and instruction. The award from the State Bar of Texas was made in recognition of Felts’ passion for becoming a future educator in law-related concepts and civic responsibility.

In 2016, Felts was chosen as a 2016-17 recipient for The Doris and Forrest Herold Scholarship, The College of Education Scholarship and The Furr Endowed Scholarship. Felts is a member of the Doctoral Student Association within the College of Education as well as a member of Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education.

UNT and Jalisco partners present at NABE conference


UNT College of Education faculty members continue their partnership with educators and administrators from the state of Jalisco, Mexico. In spring 2017, scholars from both countries collaborated to present papers about critical issues facing students and their teachers at the annual conference of the National Association for Bilingual Education in Dallas.

The Jalisco delegation comprised eight members representing the Secretariat of Education Jalisco and different universities in Jalisco that focus on educational research and the preparation of teachers. They were there representing the Mexico Association for Bilingual Education (MEXABE), a new international affiliate of the National Association for Bilingual Education. They presented during NABE’s ESL and Bilingual Education Special Interest Group Institute co-chaired by UNT Teacher Education and Administration faculty members Ricardo González and Rossana Boyd.  The emphasis of the presentations was on institutional efforts to promote bilingualism; bilingual teachers’ preparation for the early childhood and elementary grades; and redefinitions of curriculum and practices in order to embrace culturally, linguistically and socially diverse learners’ historical and sociopolitical stances.

The collaboration between UNT and the Secretariat of Education Jalisco was sponsored by NABE, UNT’s Meadows Chair for Excellence in Education, the Velma Schmidt Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Education, UNT’s College of Education and the Department of Teacher Education and Administration.

Nancy Nelson, Meadows Chair for Excellence in Education at UNT, provided a global perspective on matters of language and culture, including bilingualism and plurilingualism. She pointed to the importance of language in connections between Mexico and the United States. Following this further, Jalisco educators Ruth Perales and Lya Sañudo Guerra provided the Mexican point of view in terms of overall pedagogical approach to the teaching of English as a second language and the actual status of bilingualism in Mexico and their future goals.

Dina Castro, UNT’s Velma E. Schmidt Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Education, addressed the preparation of early childhood teachers in bilingual and intercultural contexts in the United States. She took the group for a visit to a dual-language preschool in Grand Prairie ISD.

Martha Vergara, professor from the University of Guadalajara described the preparation of teachers in indigenous contexts in Mexico and the characteristics of the courses in the teacher education programs helping educators teach Spanish to indigenous populations. Lastly, Luz Celina Ramírez, director of the Teachers College of Arandas, described the influence of migratory trends to and from the United States and the south of Mexico and how those are taken into consideration to educate teachers.

The knowledge shared during these presentations allowed both UNT and the Jalisco delegation to engage in a constructive discussion about different methods of teaching and professional development for teachers. Boyd described the trajectory of the collaboration: “Future collaboration will allow both parties to be a part of common research projects that can be implemented both in the United States and Mexico”

The collaboration between the Jalisco delegation and UNT was the continuation of a 10-year relationship dedicated to research, student and teacher professional development, and building professional bonds.

 

Top photo, members of the Jalisco delegation with Rossana Boyd, far right, principal lecturer in UNT's Department of Teacher Education and Administration.

Bottom photo, Jalisco representatives make plans with Nancy Nelson, left, Meadows Chair for Excellence in Education at UNT.

Teachers discuss lessons learned in UNT bilingual/ESL science institute

Denton ISD middle school science teachers Jonathan Hernandez and Sabrina Estrada presented at the National Association of Bilingual Education Conference in Dallas this spring about their experience at last year’s science teacher summer institute on the UNT campus. The institute was sponsored by the UNT Department of Teacher Education and Administration's Bilingual/ESL Education Office, the Department of Biological Sciences and the College of Engineering and funded by the National Science Foundation.

Hernandez and Estrada, both Latino science teachers working with English Language Learners, discussed what they learned from senior scientists at UNT regarding the advances in the research of biosynthesis and engineering of c-lignin and relating it to instruction for English Language Learners in secondary grades. Their presentation focused specifically on the biochemistry of cell walls, cell wall anatomy, gene expression and the engineering of carbon fibers.

The UNT summer institute allowed bilingual/ESL teachers to attend classes with research scientists, conduct experiments and develop instructional objectives to create lesson plans that will help pass on their new knowledge to English Language Learners. The goal is to engage more Hispanic students in scientific fields, said Rossana Boyd, principal lecturer in UNT’s Department of Teacher Education and Administration, part of the College of Education.

During the NABE presentation, Hernandez and Estrada shared with fellow teachers, student teachers and administrators some of the lesson plans and in-class activities they developed — in English and Spanish — during the summer institute and that they implemented with their students earlier this year. Replicating the experiments observed in the laboratories of UNT scientists, the lesson plans were designed to engage bilingual students through the visualization of concepts and processes with hands-on activities while including state content standards and English Language Proficiency standards.

Read more about the summer institute here

 

Above, Jonathan Hernandez and Sabrina Estrada point out a picture of a laboratory experiment provided by Aaron Harkleroad, graduate assistant and doctoral student in UNT's Department of Biological Sciences, during their presentation on laboratory experiments performed with UNT scientists.

COE’s Castro elected to NAEYC Governing Board

Dina Castro, professor and current Velma E. Schmidt Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Education in UNT's College of Edcuation, was recently elected to the Governing Board of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Castro has worked in the field of early childhood development and education for 35 years, conducting research and offering professional development programs for early educators both in her native country, Peru, and in the United States.

“The force driving my professional work has always been how to help children living in poverty, including those from diverse cultural and language backgrounds, have access to high-quality early childhood experiences,” Castro said. “Through rich interactions with families, early childhood educators, administrators, researchers and policy makers, I have gained a deep understanding of the early education field. This will certainly help me in making meaningful contributions to advancing NAEYC’s mission and goals.”

NAEYC focuses on promoting high-quality early learning for young children, from birth through age 8, by connecting early childhood practice, policy and research. The association comprises nearly 60,000 individual members of the early childhood community and more than 300 regional affiliate chapters.

 

Above, Dina Castro speaks at a conference in Lima, Peru.

UNT names Elizabeth Murakami Mike Moses Endowed Chair

Elizabeth Murakami, professor and director of programs in Educational Leadership in the College of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M-San Antonio, has been selected to serve as the Mike Moses Endowed Chair in Educational Leadership in the UNT College of Education. She will begin her role as professor of educational leadership and endowed chair in August. The position was left vacant following the retirement of faculty member Jane Huffman last year.

“It is a distinguished honor to join students, faculty and administrators at UNT in enhancing its visibility as the most significant contributor in the preparation of quality educators,” said Murakami. “The department’s strong generation of research, commitment to students and efforts in joining several national and state organizations in order to deliver the best preparation programs was a big factor in accepting this role.”

Murakami is a distinguished national educator and research fellow, having received national and international recognition for her research contributions. She earned her master’s degree and doctorate in educational administration at Michigan State University. Murakami has been dedicated to the improvement of Texas schools for more than a decade and has numerous published works that include academic journals, book chapters, creative works and edited books.

The endowed chair position was funded by Donald A. Buchholz, a UNT alumnus and member of the UNT Board of Regents. Buchholz also is the founder of Southwest Securities Inc., which established a scholarship endowment to benefit students in UNT's superintendent certification program last year.

The chair position is designed to reward an exceptional faculty member for his or her scholarship. In addition, the funding provides resources to build UNT's educational administration programs and bring increased recognition to the graduate programs in this area. The chair position is named for Mike Moses, who has served as a Texas educator for more than 30 years. Moses was the Commissioner of Education for the state of Texas from 1995 through 1999, deputy chancellor for Systems Operations at the Texas Tech University System from 1999 to 2001 and general superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District from 2001 until 2004. 

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