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UH Wins National Award for ‘Distinguished’ Teacher Education Program

Christina Torango, Rick Rodriquez, Amber Thompson and Shea Culpepper
UH teaching graduate Christina Torango, HISD academic manager Rick Rodriguez, UH associate chair of teacher education Amber Thompson and teacher education director Shea Culpepper gathered at the Association of Teacher Educators awards banquet.

Posted Feb. 21, 2018 –The University of Houston College of Education won national honors Monday in recognition of its first-rate teacher-preparation program.

The Association of Teacher Educators honored the college with its Distinguished Program in Teacher Education Award, which recognizes “outstanding” programs that exemplify collaboration, innovation and high quality.

“We are incredibly proud of this award, which acknowledges the game-changing work we have done to ensure we graduate teachers who are well prepared for this critically important job,” said Bob McPherson, dean of the UH College of Education.

James Laney, who chaired the selection panel for the award, praised UH’s commitment to high-impact teacher preparation.

“The award focuses on a really quality program with rigor and evidence of effectiveness, but we’re also looking for heart. The University of Houston had all of those things,” said Laney, a professor and chair of the Teacher Education and Administration department at the University of North Texas.

The other finalists for the 2018 award were University of Florida and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The award was announced at the Association of Teacher Educators conference in Las Vegas.

UH, which also won the award in 2007, has continued to refine its teacher-preparation program.

A signature piece of the UH program involves students participating in a yearlong student-teaching internship, gaining invaluable classroom experience in Houston-area schools. Most programs include only a semester of student-teaching, and alternative certification programs typically require far less.

The UH students learn from mentor teachers in the schools while UH instructors provide coaching and support on site.

“We want our students to graduate more like second-year teachers than first-year teachers,” said Amber Thompson, associate chair of the college’s Curriculum and Instruction department and head of the teacher education program.

Thompson and Shea Culpepper, director of the teacher education program, added that strong partnerships with local schools help ensure they are meeting their needs. For example, UH instructors meet four times a year with principals and human resources representatives at each student-teaching site to discuss issues and make improvements.

“While we’re asking more of our district partners than we have in the past, the payoff in stronger new teachers and professional growth for mentor teachers is worth it,” Culpepper said.

UH also has teamed with the Houston Independent School District on an innovative program called Teach Forward Houston. Top-ranked high school students are recruited into the UH teaching program, receive financial assistance to attend and commit to teaching in HISD for four years after graduation.

On a national level, UH is a founding member of US PREP, a coalition of eight colleges of education focused on improving teacher preparation.

The UH College of Education has about 900 students enrolled in the teaching program. According to the most recent state surveys, 99 percent of UH teaching graduates reported being sufficiently or well prepared for their first year on the job; principals rated them more than sufficiently prepared in all categories.

–By Ericka Mellon

–Photos by Jaime Questell