Posted Date: 09/19/2023
The United Independent School District is taking a proactive stance against teacher shortages by providing special training for those instructors pending certification.
“Teach Us Texas was formerly known as ‘Excellence in Teaching.’ We used them several years ago, assisting us with the Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities certification prep,” stated David R. Canales, Associate Superintendent for Human Resources. “This year, we contracted with Teach Us Texas to help us with certification prep to cover all teacher certifications,” he added.
Supporters of the training say it allows teachers more time and specific test-taking strategies to help them pass their certification exams. There currently are about 60 teachers in the PPR certification training and 46 teachers for the core area.
On Friday, Sept. 15, Dr. Veronica Galvan, Vice President of Academic Relations with Teach Us Texas, taught 26 teachers seeking Bilingual and/or English as a Second Language certification how to break down questions and analyze the process of coming to the correct answer.
“This is an excellent program to assist teachers in partitioning time to study and chunk review sessions. Usually, teachers sacrifice their study time since they are committed to school initiatives. By the time they go home, they are too tired to study and prepare for their certification test,” Canales stated.
“Consequently, they run out of time to study and test. In addition, these are free pieces of training that the district is willing to invest with our staff. These sessions are in person, Google sessions, and Google Classroom, he added.
The need to have teachers pass these exams is dire as there is not only a local shortage of teachers but a national shortage as well, said Maria H. Arambula-Ruiz, director of the Bilingual/ESL/Dual Language/Foreign Language department.
“This is not just in Laredo but it’s a statewide issue. We need the teachers and we need them certified,” she said.
And when you factor in Bilingual and/or English as a Second Language certification, the shortage becomes acute.
“If you have bilingual students sitting in the classroom, you must have a bilingual teacher in the classroom,” Arambula-Ruiz stressed.
More than 20 years ago, there was only an oral assessment, she recalled.
Today, teachers seeking Bilingual certification must take two tests and pass four domains - listening, speaking, reading and writing. ESL teachers must pass one exam in their area.
“The test has evolved and become much more rigorous,” Arambula-Ruiz said. And while many people assume that if you speak Spanish, you’re fluent, that is not always the case.
“There is a very big difference,” she said. Teachers seeking certification often struggle with where to place the accents in Spanish, for example.
In the meantime, UISD is looking for great teachers.
“If you have a bachelor’s degree, we are looking for teachers at United ISD. If you are passionate … we want you here. If you’re not certified, the district provides all the content to assure that they get certified,” she said.
The program has a 95 percent passage rate.
“United takes care of its teachers. That’s the message I want to send,” Arambula-Ruiz said.