Empowering teachers: Area educators enrolled in world-class university programs

January 7, 2019

MERCEDES — Rio Grande Valley teachers providing world-class education to students in local school districts came together for a meeting of the minds.

More than 50 teachers from local schools gathered recently at the Texas Graduate Center, an educational hub that partners with Harvard University and other world-class universities to offer master’s degrees in mathematics, biology and cybersecurity.

Teachers from San Benito, Lyford, Weslaco, Mercedes, Donna, Edinburg, McAllen, PSJA,and La Joya school districts attended the meeting.

“ We brought everybody together to talk and share ideas about their experience,” said Adriana Lopez, Texas Graduate Center Vice President for Online & Strategic Initiatives.

“ Teachers were coming to us and asking what’s next,” Lopez said about the teachers who had already completed the training. “They really want to stay active and in touch with the Texas Graduate Center.”

The Harvard Teachers don’t meet the biology teachers or the computer science teachers as courses are scheduled on different days throughout the semesters.

“ They met for the first time at this meeting to talk about what they can do together as teachers to help the community beyond the classroom,” she said.

Math For Teachers Program

Queen Martin, a La Joya High School algebra teacher came up with some ideas to work with the community outside of the classroom.

“ We could come up with a math circle or something like ‘Hanging with Harvard’ which was a good program that invited students to learn more about math,” said Martin, who teaches dual enrollment classes and also stays in touch with her Harvard professors.

Martin graduated with in 2017 and was part of the second cohort of Valley teachers to earn a Master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate Extension Math for Teachers graduate program.

There are more than 40 math teachers throughout the Valley who have earned a Math For Teachers Master’s Degree or are completing the program offered by the Harvard University Graduate Extension School through the Texas Graduate Center.

A total of 25 Valley teachers have graduated from the Math for Teachers program.

“ It changes your perception and expectations are higher for students,” Martin said about her Harvard training.

Texas Graduate Center

The Harvard University Graduate Extension School trains math teachers from area schools at the Texas Graduate Center in Mercedes, a component of the Texas Valley Communities Foundation.

The Texas Valley Communities Foundation is a nonprofit with a mission to empower and transform communities through education and innovation.

“ Every year, each teacher provides instruction in math, biology or cybersecurity to 100 students,” said Roland Arriola, Texas Valley Communities Foundation president.

“ In 10 years each teacher will provide instruction to 1,000 students, but it is our goal to graduate 100 world-class teachers, who in 10 years, will provide instruction to 100,000 Valley student in mathematics, biology and cybersecurity,” Arriola said.

The Texas Graduate Center has expanded the master’s degree programs available to the Master of Science in Biology from the 6th rated medical program at Washington University in Saint Louis, and the top-notch Master of Engineering in Cybersecurity program at the University of Maryland.

And new programs are now forming in a Master of Science in Computer Science from Georgia Institute of Technology and a Master of Science in Political Science from University of Nebraska at Omaha.

“ When teachers walk through the doors of the Texas Graduate Center they are walking into Harvard. We connect them with Harvard faculty,” said Mary Alice Reyes, Texas Graduate Center executive director. “The sole purpose of the Texas Graduate Center is to provide student success,” said Reyes.

Reyes said the Texas Graduate Center is the first organization to offer a cohort model in the Math for Teachers Master degree program at Harvard.

“ The Texas Graduate Center brought the Ivy League and major university programs to the Valley,” Reyes said. “We wanted to bring Harvard’s knowledge and expertise here to the Rio Grande Valley."

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