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HISD and UST Partner to Move Teacher Aides to Bilingual Teachers in Classrooms

L to R:  Berta Campos, Rosario Hernandez, Monica Mendoza, Carolina Manzano, Celia Palacios, Lidia Guifaro, Jessica Gonzalez, Brandon LunaUniversity of St. Thomas and HISD have teamed up to move para-professional teacher aides through an offsite dual-language degree program so that they may become teachers.

Grow Your Own Program Boosts Earning and Learning Power

Dr. Ginny Torres-Rimbau, director of the Dual Language Program at UST said, The “Grow-Your-Own Program” is a partnership between UST and HISD designed to share our unique Dual Language teacher preparation program with the largest school district in Texas.”

By bringing its courses to the district, this program allows teacher aides to complete their degrees in two years and become certified teachers in an area of critical need.

This upward-mobility undergraduate program, Grow Your Own, is unique to St. Thomas and HISD. Before entering the UST program, these students completed 60 hours of course-work at Houston Community College.

Currently, there are 22 students in the program in two cohorts, and HISD is recruiting a third cohort now. Based on the interest, the third cohort isn’t just Spanish-speaking candidates but also Chinese and Arabic speaking candidates.

“Houston ISD is excited to work with the University of St. Thomas to provide this unique opportunity, while also equipping his next wave of effective Dual Language teachers for HISD,” Dr. Denise Hooker-Ware, Human Resources Department at HISD, said. “These teachers will enter HISD classrooms with the foundational knowledge, skills, and mindsets necessary to maximize student achievement and social and emotional development.”

These students will take their earning power from $17,000/year to $55,000/year when they complete the degree and pass the certification exam.

Dual Language Program at UST

The Dual Language Program students in the program learn:

• How to develop their students’ language proficiency

• A variety of teaching and leadership methods that provide an ideal environment for learning

• How to interpret and evaluate educational literature and research

• How to solve problems effectively in their classroom and school while integrating

The students had the opportunity to student teach in the schools where they work.

Also, jobs are at-the-ready for these newly minted teachers at the schools they have been serving as teacher aides.

First Cohort Graduates This May

This May, University of St. Thomas will graduate its first cohort of eight students as Grow Your Own teachers. Though its commencement ceremony has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, University of St. Thomas celebrate its May graduates who will march in a December 13 graduation. This winter graduation celebrates fall 2019 graduates, May 2019 graduates and fall 2020 graduates.

Graduate Brandon Ignacio Luna gushes about advancing in his career

“The partnership between Houston ISD and the University of St. Thomas is an amazing opportunity for para-professionals,” Luna said. “Dr. Rimbau, who is the director of the Dual Language Program, has ensured us that we are enrolled in a degree plan that is 100 percent focused on bilingual and dual language instruction. Our professors provided us with relevant and applicable content that is useful in today's classrooms.

“HISD and UST are in continuous communication with us ensuring that we have the resources, are on track, and are ready to be in the classroom. HISD and UST also prepared us for our certification exams by hosting study sessions and practice tests,” Luna said.

“The Grow Your Own Program is astounding and I can't wait to begin my journey as an educator. Go Celts!” he said.