Applications available for Texas Reskilling grant at MCC

By Candace Kelm

College students affected by COVID-19 can now apply for Texas Reskilling grant funds through McLennan Community College to help get back on track to earning a certificate or degree. MCC was awarded $112,500 in funding by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to help 75 students who stopped attending classes due to the pandemic and wanted to continue their education. 

The program is also available to displaced workers affected by COVID-19 needing to gain new skills to re-enter the workforce. More than 70 of MCC’s degree and certificate programs are approved for the grant funds, and eligible students will receive $500-$2,500 per semester to be enrolled either full or part time.

To be eligible, students must:

*       Be a Texas resident eligible for in-state tuition;

*       Have filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA);

*       Have financial need and be eligible for federal Title IV aid (students enrolled in short-term non-eligible Title IV workforce credential programs, but who are otherwise Title IV eligible, may be included);

*       Have affirmed they were affected by COVID-19;

*       Be enrolled in an eligible undergraduate or short-term workforce credential program either full or part time;

*       Have not been enrolled in an accredited postsecondary institution during the Fall 2020 semester or previous six months; and

*       Must be within 12 months of completing their credential program.

Interested students should complete the online application. Registration is still open for those wishing to continue their education this spring. Spring Second 8-Week classes begin March 15. For more information or to enroll for spring classes, contact Highlander Central at 254-299-8622 or highlandercentral@mclennan.edu.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

MCC awarded $112,500 Texas Reskilling Grant

By Candice Kelm

McLennan Community College has been awarded $112,500 as part of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Texas Reskilling Support Fund Grant program.

The new program aims to help Texans affected by COVID-19, including displaced workers needing to gain new skills to re-enter the workforce and also to support students who left their pursuit of higher education before receiving a credential. MCC’s award is part of $18.1 million awarded by THECB to 49 Texas institutions. 

MCC has designated the funds to serve up to 75 students who previously stopped and would like to return to MCC to complete a certificate or associate’s degree. More than 70 of the college’s programs are approved for the program. Eligible students will receive $500-$2,500 per semester and can be enrolled either full or part-time.

To be eligible, the student must:

·       Be a Texas residents eligible for in-state tuition;

·       Have filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA);

·       Have financial need and be eligible for federal Title IV aid (including students enrolled in short-term non-eligible Title IV workforce credential programs, but who are otherwise Title IV eligible);

·       Have affirmed they were affected by COVID-19;

·       Be enrolled in an eligible undergraduate or short-term workforce credential program either full or part-time;

·       Have not been enrolled in an accredited postsecondary institution in the previous academic semester or previous six months; and

·       Must be within 12 months of completing their credential program.

Students wishing to enroll for the spring semester and interested in the program should complete the Reskilling Fund Application during the advising process.

For more information about the program or to enroll for spring classes, contact Highlander Central at 254-299-8622 or highlandercentral@mclennan.edu

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

MCC continues with modified class formats for spring semester

By Candice Kelm

McLennan Community College’s has remained diligent in monitoring the restrictions set by federal, state, and local governments as the COVID-19 pandemic continues across the globe.

MCC faculty and staff returned to campus Monday following the winter break and are preparing for the beginning of the spring semester Jan. 11. Guidelines established before the start of the Fall 2020 semester to ensure a safe environment for students, faculty, staff, and all campus visitors will remain in place for the foreseeable future. These guidelines include smaller class sizes, face covering and social distancing requirements and increased cleaning procedures. 

Additionally, the college will continue to offer classes in blended/hybrid and online formats along with some traditional face-to-face skills-based classes. Students in blended/hybrid classes experience instruction both in a traditional classroom setting and online formats, including through videoconferencing. These classes will be accessible to all students through MCC’s online platforms.

Campus computer labs will continue to support students with technology needs, and most services will continue to be offered through online and in-person formats.

For more information about the College’s COIVD-19 response, visit www.mclennan.edu/covid.

Individuals interested in becoming a MCC student this spring should visit https://www.mclennan.edu/admissions/become-a-student/index.html . Registration continues through Jan. 9 with most classes beginning Jan. 11. Second 8-Week Class registration will continue through March 14 with classes beginning March 15. For more information, contact Highlander Central at 299-8622 or highlandercentral@mclennan.edu.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

Teacher training draws $2.2 million to Waco area

WACO — Waco will receive grants to strengthen the current teacher workforce and improve the pipeline of qualified teachers with the support of a $2.2 million grant over three years from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The first initiative, University-School Partnerships for the Renewal of Educator Preparation, supports universities in the transformation of their program to financially sustainable, year-long residencies. Coalition member include Texas Tech University and Tarleton State University – both building and scaling a year-long residency that will produce well-prepared teachers in the Waco region in partnership with local school districts.

An Opportunity Culture grant will fund a creative staffing model that focuses on supporting sustainable residencies that are affordable for candidates at Waco and La Vega school districts. It also calls for creation of Greater Waco Teacher Community of Practice, a coalition of decision makers and stakeholders who will improve equity and quality for the teacher pipeline for all school districts in McLennan County.

Finally, the Center for Transforming Alternative Preparation Pathways (CTAPP), will provide support to McLennan Community College as it is innovating to improve its alternative teacher certification program.

“COVID-19 has put stress and demands on every school in Waco,” said Suzii Paynter March, CEO of Prosper Waco. “The strength and resiliency of the teaching profession is also under duress, and as a community we are using these opportunities to rally support for teachers of today and to recruit and grow strong teachers for tomorrow.

“The Greater Waco Teacher Community of Practice will be a forum of education leaders for discussion and innovation as we consider the entire teacher workforce landscape in our region,” March said.

The Opportunity Culture grant is designed to “leverage high-performing teachers in a multi-classroom leadership model,” Pereira said. In other words, it seeks to build on the excellence of the most effective teachers and will do that in conjunction with Texas Tech’s teacher residency program in Waco.

“One of the challenges that Waco ISD faces is a higher teacher turnover rate than many other districts,” said Susan Kincannon, Waco ISD superintendent. “We hope that the Opportunity Culture model will help retain our best teachers by offering them new opportunities to grow as educational leaders and better prepare the new teachers who will follow them in the classroom.”

“La Vega ISD is thrilled about the opportunity to participate in the Opportunity Culture grant,” said Sharon Shields, La Vega ISD superintendent. “The OC objectives support and expand on existing efforts in La Vega. The impact of OC in LVISD is unlimited. The potential and opportunity to replicate our most effective teachers will further improve our instructional programs leading to student success.”

US PREP, based in Lubbock, will work with the two universities – Texas Tech and Tarleton – in implementing sustainable, year-long residencies.

Public Impact, out of Chapel Hill, N.C., will work with the two school districts in implementing the Opportunity Culture program. The grant will fund a coordinator position at each district.

The second grant brings CTAPP to Waco. CTAPP, established in the Houston area, provides technical assistance to alternative teacher certification (ACP) programs, like the one already in existence at MCC.

“Most public school teachers in Texas pursue certification through the traditional route of earning a bachelor’s degree in teaching,” said Pereira. “But many people seek teacher certification after earning a degree in another academic area and working outside of education.

“This grant will bring specific expertise to Waco that enhances the alternative certification process for those who want to teach but do not have a teaching degree,” Pereira said.

Frank Graves, dean of workforce and public service at MCC, said: “McLennan Community College’s Alternative Teacher Education Program is excited about the partnership with CTAPP. The technical assistance and resources will enhance our program delivery and increase our teacher preparation mentoring process’s effectiveness.”

As part of the grant, CTAPP’s two employees became a part of the Prosper Waco staff in September — Chris Reid, director, and Mia O’Suji, director of content development and programming.

Reid and O’Suji have worked closely with Kristi Patton, MCC’s Alternative Teacher Program director, and her team to create a comprehensive plan, Graves said. “The result will be more highly trained teachers entering our local school districts.”

Reid noted that there is a teacher shortage in Texas and there also is a lack of quality teacher candidates. The state has created an environment for creation of ACPs to meet the training need. By partnering with ACPs, like the one at MCC, CTAPP provides “high-quality technical assistance to support the implementation of a rigorous, equitable teacher preparation model aimed at improving the quality of educators in classrooms.”

The Greater Waco Teacher Community of Practice is “designed to study the teacher pipeline in McLennan County with the intention of making improvements to the pipeline as a community,” Pereira said. “The pandemic has exposed areas of improvement in the field of education, and we are seeing that no one institution can do it alone. Together we must make the necessary improvements in order to have the teacher workforce needed for the future of our community.”

Teaching gets a boost from alternative certification program

By Mia O’Suji

Upon entering my first year of college, I was unaware of systemic inequities in our education system and how they would play the largest role in the trajectory of my life.

The residual effects of these systemic challenges led me to obtain a bachelor’s degree in English, with a minor in education. By pursuing a career in education, I envisioned myself eradicaticating structural barriers hindering Black and Latinx students in low-income communities from having access to a high-quality education. 

Although I studied education in my undergraduate program, I chose to join the mission of Teach for America and relocated to Houston to serve as an 8th grade English teacher for a public charter school. 

While much of my and my students’ successes can be attributed to my undergraduate program and Teach for America, the support I received from a local Alternative Certification Program (ACP) deserves much credit for my growth as a first-year teacher because of the ongoing training and support it provided. The development I received consisted of intensive pre-service training, frequent observations and feedback from an instructional coach, and face-to-face professional development opportunities. 

My story supports the vision and mission of Prosper Waco’s Center for Transforming Alternative Preparation Pathways (CTAPP), where I am now director of content development and programming. CTAPP became a part of Prosper Waco and the Greater Waco community in September. 

CTAAP believes all prospective teacher candidates deserve equitable, high-quality preparation both prior to and during their first year in the classroom. Many educators still choose traditional, four-year, university-based teacher preparation programs, but a majority of Texas’s newest teachers opt to complete an alternative route to educator certification. 

Since 2015, the percentage of total new teacher candidates enrolling in ACPs has increased from 70% to 75% in 2017-18 (U.S. Department of Education, Title 2 data). Given that Texas certifies more new teachers annually than any other state (over 22,000 in 2017-18) and that Texas teacher candidates are more likely to enroll in ACPs, this has created a robust, yet efficient, pipeline for individuals looking to enter the teaching field.

For many candidates, alternative certification routes serve as a bridge between theory and practice — helping those with undergraduate degrees secure the necessary training and skills to enter the classroom without an education degree. For others, ACPs present an opportunity to explore a new career that will impact the lives of future generations of Texans. 

For novice teachers, ACPs offer critical on-the-job support and coaching to propel student results forward. Though each candidate brings unique life experiences to an ACP, they all possess a common goal: to learn new skills and provide a public service to better support the students and communities where they will teach. 

In Waco, several pathways exist to achieve alternative certification through McLennan Community College. Candidates can opt for MCC’s own ACP program or participate in programs from Tarleton State University and Texas Tech University at the University Center at MCC. Whatever pathway candidates choose, CTAPP exists to ensure that their preparation is top-notch; and soon, these teacher candidates will be filling classrooms around the Waco community to better serve the PK-12 student populations who deserve excellent educators.

Mia O’Suji is director of content development and programming for Prosper Waco’s Center for Transforming Alternative Preparation Pathways. Mia is a graduate of Howard University. Prior to joining Prosper Waco, Mia served as a PK-12 classroom teacher, a district instructional coach, and a dean of instruction in Houston. Her wide array of experiences have provided her with thorough knowledge of the inner workings of teacher preparation facilitation and coaching interactions. Mia’s passion for implementing rigorous, equitable teacher preparation practices has led her to the Waco community to spark innovation and collaboration to ensure the best outcomes for students. Mia may be contacted at mia@prosperwaco.org.