Changemakers: Collaboration that achieves positive systemic change

ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning is currently working in collaboration with Texas A & M International University (TAMIU), an international university at the gateway to Mexico that serves as a cultural and intellectual hub to its multilingual, multicultural community in southwest Texas. TAMIU’s School of Education and the Center have partnered around multiple points of alignment and action to advance equity by increasing the number of diverse, high-quality teachers available. The goal is to develop the number of teachers needed to fill teaching vacancies that are forecasted for the school districts in Laredo.

The core team is in the design phase of building the framework for collaborative strategies and actions. The team includes Dr. James O’Meara, TAMIU; Thea Ulrich-Lewis, Raise Your Hands Texas; Israel Castilla, Laredo Independent School District (LISD); Dr. Nancy Lewin, ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning; Donita Garza, Texas Association of Future Educators; Michelle Accardi, National Board-Certified Teacher; and Dr. Paul Rogers, Ashoka.

Dr. O’Meara has said, of the collaboration, “Our community-based educator preparation program involves collaborating with local districts and key partners, like ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning, to provide a diverse cohort of future educators with the resources and supports they need to become both an effective educator in their classroom and a trusted changemaker for their community. Ensuring the success of teacher candidates from every neighborhood of Laredo and promoting National Board Certification beyond graduation are central to our efforts in promoting access, success, and social mobility for all through educator preparation. ”

TAMIU and the Center are working together in a number of additional areas that aim to develop a diverse teacher pipeline that begins with identifying students in the eighth grade, providing a quality “aspiring teachers” program with curriculum to support their successful high school completion through the college of education, and in achieving a professional teaching position. That work includes:

  • leveraging the power of combined resources to support future generations of individuals in the community and beyond;
  • defining the requirements for the TAMIU College of Education to ensure student success;
  • increasing the number of Latinx teachers to thereby increase diversity of educators, writ large;
  • supporting access, resources, and opportunity to underserved populations;
  • increasing the success and completion rates of Latinx students in TAMIU’s College of Education;
  • developing a strategic plan to create a teacher pipeline (collaboration along with Laredo ISD secondary leadership) to meet the needs of the school district;
  • creating a strategy and supports to align a “Grow Your Own” teacher program that integrates actions from grades eight through 12 in the school district and through completion of teacher preparation program in the College of Education;
  • aligning of ACT’s resources to support learning and the trajectory of success for LISD eighth grade and higher students interested in becoming teachers through completion of the teacher preparation program at TAMIU;
  • establishing an LISD “Changemakers Summer Program” for all students in the aspiring teacher program to begin in the summer of 2021 and every summer thereafter

Apart from the “Grow Your Own” teacher pipeline initiative, the Center also is working with TAMIU on:

  • providing equitable access to information for students and families to achieve equity and to increase opportunity through Facebook Live presentations for the community on both sides of the Laredo, Texas and Mexico border through “Ventanilla de Orientación Educativa” (VOE), Educational Guidance Window. The goal of the VOE is to help the Mexican and Hispanic communities navigate the educational systems of the U.S. and Mexico, as well as to offer information about programs under the open education system such as literacy, primary and secondary education, preparatory and university for the Hispanic community, and to develop courses for migrant parents;
  • increasing the social and emotional learning (SEL) development for educators, students, and their parents, as well as the launch of the ACT’s Mosaic Learning Solution launch in the Fall of 2021 for four middle schools in LISD.

The collaborative team on the above “Grow Your Own” project seeks to have a positive effect and enhance capacity for the program by:

  • working collaboratively to achieve higher quality solutions and leverage knowledge and resources;
  • increasing diversity through development of high-quality teacher to meet the need of the local school district community;
  • decreasing the academic performance gap;
  • establishing engagement of students, parents, and educators leveraging information and resources;
  • increasing SEL skills in students and educators as well as pre-service College of Education students; and creating a framework for systemic change.

The Center is proud of our participation in a collaborative that is leading to positive change by developing changemakers in education.