A $492,672 grant recently awarded to the University of Houston-Victoria aims to alleviate the state teacher shortage by helping instructional aides and long-term substitutes become certified teachers.
Starting in the fall, a three-year grant from the Greater Texas Foundation will fund UHV's Access to Success program, which provides scholarships, tuition and books to area school district employees who want to become teachers.
The grant also will fund research expenses to study the effectiveness of the program and provide an additional incentive of $3,500 to any student who becomes certified to teach in the critical need areas of math and science.
"We thank the Greater Texas Foundation for helping us continue Access to Success, which connects us with students who might not otherwise attend college and provides them with the resources and opportunity to enroll," UHV President Tim Hudson said. "This will make an enormous difference in so many students’ lives and will help increase the number of teachers in this area and across Texas."
UHV's Access to Success program started in 1994 with funding from the Houston Endowment. But the grant ended in 2006-2007, causing student financial support to dwindle and fewer teacher's aides and substitutes to enroll in the program.
It's important for the program to continue since there aren't enough Texas teachers, especially those in critical needs areas, said Carol Klages, a UHV associate professor of education and the program coordinator under the new grant.
"There is research that shows a large number of teachers leave the classroom after their first three to five years of teaching," she said. "But if you put a teacher in the classroom who has been an aide or a substitute, they know what to expect. We're hoping that this will mean better teacher retention, and we can encourage quality teachers to stay in Texas."
Teacher's aides and long-term substitutes from area school districts must apply to Access to Success and demonstrate a financial need to be in the program. They must complete their classes at UHV and follow the same degree plan as other education students.
Jennifer Whitten, who graduated magna cum laude from Access to Success in December, said the program helped her by paying for classroom textbooks each semester. Thanks to Access to Success, Whitten will begin a job this fall teaching second-graders. Previously, she was a teacher's aide for six years.
"I feel really good that this program is continuing and that other people will have the same opportunities I had," she said. "I was very thankful for the program. It was a very rewarding experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed the classes."
John Stansell, dean of the School of Education & Human Development, said that the program is important for education students and the future of Texas.
"We are grateful to the Greater Texas Foundation for providing the funding that will allow us to continue to bring able, dedicated teachers like Ms. Whitten to the classrooms of our region and state," he said.
Between 25 and 50 new students will enter Access to Success each year under the new grant, and the goal is to have about 50 percent of program graduates be certified to teach in areas of critical need, Klages said. Another program goal is to have 85 percent of the participants pass the Texas Examination for Educator Standards on the first try. Students must pass this exam to be able to teach in Texas.
Greater Texas Foundation Executive Director Wynn Rosser said he is pleased the foundation is able to support the program. The grant is one of the larger privately funded grants UHV has received since opening in 1973.
"The foundation believes in the importance of individual teachers and what happens in their classrooms," he said. "Access to Success has the demonstrated ability to put teachers in Texas classrooms who have already shown their dedication to our students’ educations."