New Holmes Cadets Pilot Launches in Texas

This month, I visited the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) to participate in a kick-off symposium for the new AACTE Holmes Cadets Program starting there. The participating high school students were a dynamic reminder of why AACTE is expanding the Holmes Program: to support historically underrepresented students pursuing careers in education in order to diversify the field, from PK-12 through the professoriate. I was honored to welcome these passionate Holmes Cadets, who are poised to bring a strong Hispanic/Latino contingent to the teaching profession.

As South Texas Independent School District (STISD) Superintendent Marla Guerra stated in her opening remarks, the support for programs such as this is “all about partnerships.” The collaboration among AACTE, UTRGV, STISD, and the South Texas Business, Education, and Technology Academy (BETA)—the current academic home of the cadets—offers a promising model for university-district partnership that will nurture the future educators along their path into the profession.

UTRGV Provost Havidán Rodríguez welcomes the inaugural class of AACTE Holmes Cadets from the South Texas Business, Education, and Technology Academy.
UTRGV Provost Havidán Rodríguez welcomes the inaugural class of AACTE Holmes Cadets from the South Texas Business, Education, and Technology Academy.

Student-Driven Planning

For many students, the symposium represented their first time on campus and a thrilling experience for many of them. Roughly 40 cadets participated in the 2-day planning meeting to exchange ideas about what the program should look like, a strategy to build ground-level investment in the program. Reluctant at first, these students gradually began to weigh in with their insights.

In one exercise, students discussed qualities they admired and disliked in their teachers, considering whether and how qualities like compassion might be taught to preservice educators. They also enjoyed an interactive session using TeachLive software, allowing them to test their teaching prowess on unruly student avatars in a virtual classroom. The activity was a fun as well as sobering reminder of the challenges the cadets are likely to face as teachers.

Patricia Alvarez McHatton, dean of the UTRGV College of Education and P-16 Integration, challenged the participants to brainstorm interventions that could transform education to meet specific student needs. The cadets offered solutions to the challenges in lively presentations during the second day of the meeting.

Mentorship and Modeling

Cadets also participated in a Q&A session with Holmes Master’s students from William Paterson University (NJ), introducing the signature component of the AACTE Holmes Program: mentorship. The two groups of students discussed motivations for going into teaching and for pursuing a master’s degree and shared time-management strategies. The mentors encouraged the cadets to develop deeper relationships with their own teachers, such as by shadowing them or by participating in after-school events, and to seize every opportunity available to them.

The planning meeting was the first step in developing the new Holmes Cadets Program, which the high school students will continue to refine with guidance from their supervisors and partners. The programming they design will inform future Holmes Cadets work around the country.

“This is an incredible opportunity to develop a program yourselves,” said Alcione Ostorga, UTRGV’s coordinator, praising participants’ engagement in shaping their future experiences.

As I told the cadets in my welcoming remarks, we challenge them to embrace their calling by influencing the culture in their schools and being role models. I reminded them that they are laying the groundwork for what we hope to be numerous students who have yet to join the program. We are honored to help support them on their path to become future teachers and school leaders, professors and provosts, advocates and policy makers—wherever their journey in education leads.

For another perspective on the kick-off symposium, including links to photos, see this article from UTRGV. For more information about the AACTE Holmes Program, visit

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Omar Davis

Manager of Member Engagement, AACTE