October 25, 2012

Posted: Tuesday, Oct 23rd, 2012


Courier staff writer

ALAMOSA — Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia visited the Valley on Monday to celebrate education from the cradle to college.

Garcia first joined Adams State University, the Public Education and Business Coalition (PEBC), the Boettcher Foundation and Valley school district representatives at the Ramada Inn to recognize the latest addition to local education: The Boettcher Teacher Residency Program.

In January, The Boettcher Foundation, a Colorado-based non-profit devoted to refining education, and ASU approached Valley superintendents and the San Luis Valley Board of Cooperative Services (SLV BOCES) with a vision for the future of rural education that included master teachers willing to make a long term commitment. The school district bosses gave them their blessing, which set the project in motion. Nine months later, the ASU Boettcher Teacher Residency Program was born, making it the foundation’s first commitment outside of the Denver area to combine research and practices for teacher recruitment, preparation, induction and support in high-needs schools.

“We have within our school districts a lot of kids who get labeled as at-risk,” Garcia said. “It’s the majority of your students. We know that these kids face a higher likelihood of failing to complete… If we are not sure in reaching these kids, it is our community that is at risk. The only way to lessen that risk is to collaborate across programs to make sure everyone is successful.”

The residency program mixes traditional and alternative graduate level teacher education and includes a yearlong residency with a mentor, ongoing masters level course work and mentoring and coaching support.

Many of the courses focus on teaching culturally and linguistically diverse learners and, over the past 10 years, the program has kept 94 percent of its graduates teaching in high-need schools.

“This begins a well education workforce and citizens,” Garcia said. “They are going to be engaged in the community.”

ASU plans to see its first residents in August 2013 alongside Center, Alamosa and North Conejos school districts. The three districts have signed up to serve as training districts, meaning they will provide about 24 mentors and welcome program teachers for experiential learning for four days out of the week.

“A student in Center doesn’t deserve less of an education than someone in Jefferson or Douglas County,” Garcia said. “We want them to have the same opportunities so they can strengthen their community.”

Historically, participants receive a fellowship that pays for the cost of their teacher certification and master’s degree, and provides a $10,000 living stipend for the first year. The fellow’s costs are paid in exchange for a five-year commitment, which includes the residency year, to teach in approved high priority schools in the program’s partner districts. The Colorado Department of Education alternative licensure program awards the teaching certificate. The ASU master’s degree in education will be designed to meet the needs of rural learners and districts.

“What a wonderful opportunity,” said Alamosa School District Superintendent Rob Alejo. “We are in a situation to help mold the future of education. They will find wisdom in the Alamosa School District to help them find what they need to be successful educators.”

Lt. Gov. learns about early childhood education Early childhood representatives briefed Garcia on Monday afternoon at the SLV Community Health Center Administration Building on the Valley’s early childhood education efforts, which are being seen as an indicator for success in higher education.

The Lt. Gov. heard from a number of organizations including the event host, the SLV Early Childhood Council, the Nurse Family Partnership, the Early Steps to Success and Save the Children program, the Merage Foundation/Early Learning Ventures, the Sargent Early Learning Center, the Colorado Preschool Program/Results Matter Office of Early Learning and School Readiness, Del Norte Head Start and the San Luis Valley Development Resources Group and the South Central Workforce Investment Board.

Overall, the presenters focused on their organization’s dedication to early childhood education, offered a number of statistics and fielded questions from the Lt. Gov. Discussion topics included home visitations, the shared service model, quality ratings, kindergarten assessments and professional and workforce development.