Mesa College’s Teacher Education Pathways Program Wins Innovation of the Year Award

August 5, 2020 | Jennifer Nichols Kearns and Lauren Dorst - San Diego Mesa College

San Diego Mesa College’s Teacher Education Pathways Program was honored with a League for Innovation’s 2019-2020 Innovation of the Year Award. The Mesa Teacher Education Program and the recognition via this award, positions Mesa as one of the premiere colleges for aspiring teachers, and prepares the next generation of educators to bring necessary racial and gender diversity to the current teacher work force. The Program was awarded, in part, not only because of the focus on diversity, but because it also offers free tutoring, smaller classes, stipends and a direct path to earning a Bachelor’s degree - all to help ensure student success.

With a shortage of bilingual Spanish/English, male and STEM teachers in California elementary and middle schools and across the nation, Mesa College launched the Program, creating a pathway for aspiring teachers from diverse backgrounds, including Latinx/Chicanx/Hispanic, to gain employment in K-12 schools in San Diego. The goal is to close diversity and gender gaps for many students who lack the benefits of having a culturally responsive education taught by teachers who are representative of the students.

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“We want to bring teachers to the classroom who come from the community and who mirror the community,” said Mesa College Vice President of Instruction, Dr. Isabel O’Connor.

The Program is currently accepting students for Fall 2020, and the  comprehensive two-year curriculum provides opportunities for student success and educational equity by offering two pathways: (1) the DEBER Scholars Program and (2) the STEM Teacher Education Program.

Through the DEBER Scholars Program, bilingual Spanish/English Latinx students are prepared to teach in school districts throughout San Diego County. In Spanish, deber is a “duty”; it means a responsibility and desire to serve one’s community. These scholars are encouraged to transfer into San Diego State University’s bilingual credential program, through a partnership with SDSU and their Teacher Education School.

The STEM Teacher Education Program provides a pathway for Mesa students to become STEM middle school and high school teachers, and likewise, scaffolds their success by offering support and transfer partnerships to four-year institutions, including San Diego State University and National University, to complete low- to no-cost degrees.

One of the goals of the Program is for young students to see their own identities and cultures reflected in their classroom instructors. Returning to teach in their local communities, the linguistically and culturally diverse graduates of the Program will set the tone for new students’ success – helping to build efficacy in their identities and capabilities, and inspiring motivation for life-long learning in a new generation.

Students can enroll in the Mesa Teacher Education Program as early as high school, with the opportunity to participate in dual enrollment at Mesa, or take classes during their first year in college.

Established over 35 years ago, the League’s Innovation of the Year Award was devised as a way to recognize significant innovations at community colleges that reflect significant achievements. The award honors faculty, staff, and administrators who have created and implemented innovative programs, practices, partnerships, policies, and activities that improve the institution’s ability to serve students and the community.

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