Texas Tech University at Waco offering funding for future teachers

Local school districts are hiring more qualified teachers for their staff thanks to a partnership with Texas Tech University at Waco.
Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 12:22 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - The teacher shortage is not a new problem, but some local schools are looking at some newer ways to fix it.

Texas Tech University at Waco has higher education teaching site in partnership with McLennan Community college. Students can complete their core curriculum requirements at MCC before transferring to Texas Tech University for their upper-level courses.

Along with partnering with MCC, Texas Tech University at Waco is also partnering with local school districts so students can earn their bachelor’s degree while observing and eventually working alongside mentor teachers.

Now, students pursuing their certification can received up to $20,000 in financial assistance their senior year in college. The money comes from a Texas COVID Learning Acceleration Supports grant from the Texas Education Agency.

Dr. Brandi Ray, site coordinator and instructor at Texas Tech University at Waco said the hope is the funding will allow students to graduate without as much debt and hopefully be more excited to teach.

“The goal is or the thought is wow, if we really helps support young people in this way, then they’ll be excited about becoming a teacher entering our field and they’ll be less burdened with debt,” Dr. Ray said.

The program’s two year model has been successful at several locations throughout the state, including Lubbock and Waco. In order to help more rural school districts, Texas Tech University at Waco is partnering with Lorena and La Vega ISDs.

Both school districts said the program helps everyone involved—the district is able to “interview” teaching students for a year, the student teachers can see if the district is the right fit for them and students are learning from multiple teachers.

“Anytime you can have a teacher and an intern in the classroom, that’s going to benefit kids,” Dr. Joe Kucera, superintendent of Lorena ISD, said. “It reduces your student teacher ratio, and that’s a positive thing.”

Dr. Charla Rudd, chief academic officer of acceleration for La Vega ISD said the partnership has helped them avoid a teacher shortage, and it benefits students.

“We’re able this year to move forward and we catch up at a greater rate than many districts because there isn’t a teacher shortage,” Dr. Rudd said.

Participants and graduates of the program said it is helpful as they prepare for their first year in the classroom. Vanessa Montoya is a fourth grade teacher at La Vega Intermediate and a graduate of the cohort.

Montoya was hired on at La Vega after graduation, and she said it was helpful for her to be able to observe other teachers and get an idea of her teaching style before being on her own in a classroom.

“I think having the opportunity to be a teacher resident and figuring out what teaching style works for me helps me to be better for my kids and be setting them up for success in their education,” Montoya said.

Shamika Bledsoe is currently a part of the Texas Tech University at Waco cohort and is also at La Vega Intermedia. Bledsoe said she will head into her first year of teaching confident thanks to the program.

“My favorite part is just getting to try the things that I’ve learned in theory in class,” Bledsoe said. “I just get to see how that translates to me actually being a teacher and how effective it may be for this group of students or not for another.”

The funding is available through spring 2024, and applications are being accepted now for next fall. You can find more information here.

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