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New Grant Lays Foundation of Excellence

By Summer Chandler

Excellence Grant

L-R: Linda Fuller, TTAA Board Member and 2013 Excellence Grant Committee Chair; Bill Benton, TTAA Board President; Kelly Fox, Ph.D., Site Coordinator for San Antonio TechTeach; Scott Ridley, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Education, Katy Button, Ph.D., TechTeach Professional Development Facilitator; and Peggy Johnson, Ph.D., Associate Dean of the College of Education.

In 1925, founding president Paul Horn set the standard for Texas Tech University: “Let our thoughts be big thoughts and broad thoughts. Let our thinking be in worldwide terms.” In that vein, the Texas Tech Alumni Association (TTAA) has awarded the inaugural Excellence Grant to San Antonio TechTeach, a fast-track teacher education program.

San Antonio TechTeach is a teacher preparation program in the College of Education that is among the first in the nation to combine intense clinical experiences with courses and district-based partnerships aimed at dramatically improving new teachers’ impact on student learning. Through the program, students who earn an associate of arts in teaching from the Alamo Community College District are able to complete student-teaching requirements in their own community while taking upper-division coursework online through Texas Tech University, earning a bachelor of multidisciplinary studies with Early Childhood-6th grade teacher certification in just one year.

According to Linda Fuller, board member and Excellence Grant committee chair, one reason this program was selected out of 18 applications was that the unique approach to teacher education creates a program with the potential to surpass that of any other teacher program in the state, fulfilling the call made by Horn.

“This grant not only provides increased access to higher education, it addresses the critical need of qualified elementary teachers as well. Texas Tech is not just a college in Lubbock. To paraphrase the grant recipient, ‘we are reaching beyond our regional geography to fulfill the vision of Horn,’” Fuller said.

The TTAA National Board of Directors approved $10,000 to fund the initial grant at their March 2013 meeting and the concept was quickly developed in order to select and recognize the first grant recipient at the October 2013 Matador Evening which is held in conjunction with the university's annual homecoming celebration.

“Linda was the driving force behind the grant. TTAA Board President Bill Benton put her in charge of the committee and she worked miracles in just seven months,” said David Low, TTAA chief financial and administrative officer. “The turnaround from concept to an actual grant was very quick because she was so dedicated.”

The grant will provide critical start-up funding for the communications and publicity efforts of San Antonio TechTeach. Kelly Fox, Ph.D., who is supervising the implementation of TechTeach in San Antonio, said the materials the grant will fund weren’t a part of the program’s budget for this year – but are crucial to the program’s success.

“We are ecstatic to be awarded this grant. It’s a new initiative for us. It’s hard to get the word out effectively and efficiently in a large market like San Antonio,” Fox said. “The alumni association grant is going to let us try some innovative strategies for reaching out to community college students.”;

Rob Stewart, Ph.D., who serves as senior vice provost of Texas Tech, said programs like the TTAA Excellence Grant are very important to the university’s mission.

“Any kind of funding opportunity that will initiate a new program or help a program expand is important to us. A grant of this particular size has great value in starting something or getting a new approach underway,” Stewart said.

And TechTeach is definitely a new approach. Unlike traditional teaching programs, TechTeach provides students with experiences that cultivate instructional and management skills on par with a second-year teacher. For school districts, TechTeach provides a pipeline for identifying and hiring the most effective new teachers who are certified in English as a Second Language, Special Education and Bilingual Education.

“We are recruiting students who are completing an associate of arts degree in teaching. Our program in San Antonio is 2+1. Our students complete their associate’s degree in two years at one of the community colleges within the Alamo College District. Then, teacher candidates will have one year as Texas Tech students, during which they will take online courses and spend the year in the classroom completing their student teaching. We have a fantastic partnership with North East ISD in San Antonio and that’s essential,” Fox said.

She also praised the Alamo College District and its commitment to the students.

“Alamo College District is very impressive. The facilities are top of the line. The instructors are very student-centered and they want their students to have a four-year degree. But what has really been great is the caliber of students we are finding here; it is really exciting,” Fox said.

The TTAA received applications from several colleges, including Arts & Sciences, Education, Engineering, Human Sciences, Media and Communication and Visual & Performing Arts.

“The variety of proposals, from dance and theatre, to obesity research to robotics made this selection process extremely challenging,” Fuller said. “Significant contributions to higher education and society are happening at Texas Tech. It’s important – as alumni – to be invested in those contributions. One of the ways we can do this as an alumni association is through funding this grant.”;

Benton sees the grant as an opportunity to support the university. The TTAA National Board of Directors has already approved additional funding for the 2014 Excellence Grant, increasing the amount to $30,000.

“We want to recognize innovative and strategic teaching initiatives,” Benton said. “This grant allows us to partner with programs like TechTeach and hopefully play a small role in their success. That success is, we believe, part of the unique fabric that makes Texas Tech special.”;