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.