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UTRGV Continuing Education to Offer Innovative New Alternative Teacher Certification Program

The UTRGV College of Education and P-16 Integration (CEP) and the university’s Office of Continuing Education have partnered to offer an innovative, one-year alternative teacher certification program, known as PREP-A – Practitioner Reflection-Based Educator Preparation Academy. Instrumental PREP-A are (from left) Jayshree Bhat, UTRGV director of Continuing Education; Dr. Criselda Garcia, associate dean for the UTRGV College of Education & P-16 Integration (CEP); Dr. Patricia McHatton, dean of the CEP; and Dr. Janine Schall, CEP associate professor. Courtesy Photo

McALLEN, TEXAS – The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley College of Education and P-16 Integration (CEP) and the Office of Continuing Education have partnered to offer the UTRGV Practitioner Reflection-Based Educator Preparation Academy (PREP-A) an innovative one-year alternative teacher certification program.

The highly-selective program offers those who already have a bachelor’s degree an alternative pathway to a teaching career, with a focus on both practitioner inquiry and reflection. It also pairs PREP-A participants with an experienced professional mentor from partner school districts.

“We have a responsibility to provide multiple pathways into the teaching profession,” said Dr. Patricia McHatton, dean of the College of Education and P-16 Integration. “While many individuals know they want to become a teacher early on, others – myself included – decide to pursue teaching later in life. That is why we are working to develop alternative certification pathways that are responsive to individuals who are at varying stages in their lives and careers.”

The program begins with a four-week summer session, which includes a PREP Induction Camp and three Saturday PREP sessions with practice in identifying how students learn, TEKS, differentiated lesson plans, and creating positive classroom environments.

During the PREP Induction Camp, participants also will be able to apply what they are learning through the university’s mixed-reality simulations environments – a cutting edge program that blends artificial and human intelligence and lets future educators test strategies or rehearse lessons with a fully responsive class of virtual reality students.

In addition to the classroom setting, mixed-reality simulation environments allow participants to learn and apply strategies for working with families, colleagues and administrators. 

During the fall and spring semesters, teachers-of-record in K-12 classrooms will engage in a collaborative mentorship with a clinical professor and school district mentor teacher. The teachers will provide developmental feedback, as participants receive hands-on training with a focus on four inquiry-based thematic areas: teaching as a professional practice for social change; purposeful instructional planning; culturally responsive instruction and assessment; and positive learning environments. 

Those interested in joining the program’s first cohort must have a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution of higher education with a minimum 3.0 GPA and the three letters of recommendation. They must pass a criminal background check and the Pre-Admission Content Test (PACT), and receive employment as a teacher-of-record to be eligible for a one-year probationary teaching certificate.

Jayshree Bhat, director of continuing education at UTRGV, said that via this program, the university hopes meet the increased demand for qualified and properly trained teachers to prepare K-12 students.

“We have been aware for a while of the acute need for adequately trained professionals who wish to enter the teaching profession,” Bhat said. “This innovative program allows us to respond to that need in the community.”

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