Aldine ISD’s Human Resources Department is already gearing up to recruit teachers this spring. They will be looking for teachers in high need areas such as STEM and bilingual education.
Currently, AISD has more than 69,800 students and more than 70% of the population is Hispanic. District officials expect these figures to continue to rise. This entails a major need to meet the needs of English language learners (ELLs). The Multilingual Department serves more than 20,000 ELL students in prekindergarten through 12th grade.
To help meet the growing need to serve ELLs, the school district developed the Homegrown Bilingual Teacher Scholarship Program. David Villarreal in the Human Resources Department oversees the program. He serves as the director of professional standards.
Candidates must be AISD paraprofessional with two successful years in the district. They must be bilingual (English/Spanish), completed 48 college hours with a GPA of 2.5 or greater. There is an application process. The committee only selects 10 scholarship recipients per year.
Villarreal added that there are other benefits that help the future teachers. For instance, the recipients work 20 hours per week as bilingual instructional aides. And they earn full salary when university courses are in session. Bilingual teachers also earn a stipend ($4,500).
“A major benefit is the experience gained in the classroom,” Villarreal said. “We find that it strengthens their instructional strategies. This is essential once they have their own classroom. They get to work with veteran educators who serve as role models.”
Many of the scholarship recipients have a strong sense of loyalty to the district and have a desire to pay it forward. Some past recipients have gone on to become leaders at the campuses they serve. A few examples include Ash Kirk, Luis Lucio, Elizabeth Ball Iglesias, and Delma Molina. They all started out as paraprofessionals. They all are past recipients. And they all served as bilingual teachers. Today, Kirk serves as principal at Black Elementary School. Lucio is an assistant principal at Carroll Academy. Elizabeth Ball Iglesias currently serves as a science skills specialist at Parker Intermediate School. And Delma Molina is a counselor at Wilson Intermediate School.
Kirk appreciated the program’s flexibility. He also values the experience he gained in the classroom while attending college.
“I was able to complete my coursework,” Kirk said. “At the same time I got to work in the classroom. I developed meaningful experiences. Going through the program helped me make connections. I was able to better see the relevance between work and what I was doing in the classroom at the university level.
“I gained a lot of experience while working as a paraprofessional. I got to observe a lot of really good teaching practices. I got to work with teachers who later served as mentors later in my career. And that was certainly beneficial to me and I am thankful for having had the experience.”
Lucio had intentions to pursue another career. The AISD graduate found his true niche while working as a paraprofessional at Oleson Elementary School right after graduating from high school. Lucio is currently in his 21st year serving the district.
“I had intentions of being an EMT,” Lucio said. “But once I started working as a paraprofessional, I fell in love with teaching and education in general. I realized the importance of teamwork. I loved the support given and felt from administration to teachers to paraprofessionals. We all felt we had one common goal and that was the success of our students.
“I wanted to pay it forward. I wanted to be a bilingual teacher and help support the community I came from by serving as an educator. The Homegrown Bilingual Teacher Scholarship Program made that possible for me.”
Iglesias served as a paraprofessional for 10 years before applying for the scholarship. The folks at her campus motivated her to apply. Once she received the scholarship, it was “full speed ahead.” The program helped her gain confidence as an educator. After three years of teaching, she went on to obtain her master’s degree.
“This program is awesome!” Iglesias exclaimed. “So many people believed in me. I strive to be a great educator. That is how I say ‘thank you’ to everyone who supported me. I am eternally grateful that Aldine gave me this opportunity. The program made me the educator that I am today. Serving as an educator allows me to make an impact in students’ lives and the success they achieve.”
Molina likes to say that hers is an Aldine Family. Her son is an AISD graduate. And both she and her husband are currently serving in their 25th and 30th year, respectively, at the school district. She started off as a paraprofessional at Calvert Elementary School. That experience gave her a solid understanding of the demanding career. She also found much support in the Homegrown Bilingual Teacher Scholarship Program.
“Everyone was so supportive,” Molina said. “There was support from all levels. There was no one you could not got to for help. While I was in the program, I felt that everyone wanted me to succeed as a bilingual teacher.”
Molina is paying it forward. She and other skills specialists at Wilson Intermediate School mentor scholarship recipients.
“We just want to be there to support them,” Molina said. “We want them to know that they have someone they can turn to if they need help with a project or if they have any question or concern.”
Molina also advises that prospective recipients have a support system at home.
“This is a wonderful opportunity,” said Molina. “But it is going to involve a lot of work. But it is going to be a fulfilling accomplishment once a scholarship recipient finishes the program.”
Folks interested in learning more about the Homegrown Bilingual Teacher Scholarship Program can attend an informational meeting for prospective scholarship applicants on Thursday, Mar. 5. It will take place at 4 p.m. in the Teaching Theater at M.O. Campbell Educational Center (1865 Aldine Bender Rd.). Prospective candidates for the Fall 2015 Semester must be present at the meeting.
“I hope paraprofessionals who are eligible for the scholarship attend the meeting,” said Villarreal. “This is a great opportunity for those seeking to get their degree and who want to help students succeed.
“The Homegrown Bilingual Teacher Scholarship Program provides a win-win situation for everyone. The district wins by developing a pool of qualified bilingual educators. Scholarship recipients win by having the chance to earn their degree and teach. And more importantly, the students win by having their needs met in the classroom.“
Director of Written Communication & Spanish Media
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