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Grant Benefits UTEP’s Teacher Preparation Candidates

This article originally appeared on the UTEP website.

Photo: Laura Trejo / UTEP Marketing and Communications

Ten graduate students in The University of Texas at El Paso’s teacher preparation program earned $10,000 scholarships to help finance their education and teacher certification, thanks to a $108,000 grant from the Charles Butt Foundation.

UTEP nominated students for the Charles Butt Scholarship for Aspiring Teachers who were accepted into the accelerated M.A. in Education with teacher certification program, which includes a year-long residency in partnership with El Paso County school districts. Those nominees went through two rigorous application processes — one at UTEP and the other through the Charles Butt Foundation (CBF), formerly the Raise Your Hand Texas Education Foundation.

Erika Mein, Ph.D., associate dean for undergraduate studies and educator preparation in the College of Education, is a principal investigator of CBF’s Raising Texas Teachers partner program at UTEP. She said she was elated that the CBF selected 10 UTEP students to be part of the program’s initial cohort. She described the students as committed, professional and enthusiastic.

The CBF committee members based their selection on factors including the person’s skills, values ,and abilities to communicate, as well as their knowledge and strong commitment to teach in a public school in Texas where the majority of the students are economically disadvantaged, or to teach a high-demand subject such as math, science, bilingual education or special education.

“The broader goal is to really elevate the teaching profession; to draw attention to the incredible work that teachers do day in and day out to make a difference in the lives of kids,” said Mein, whose co-PI is Clifton Tanabe, Ph.D., dean of the College of Education.

Mein praised the CBF and the Raise Your Hand Texas Education Foundation, a well-known leader in public education in Texas, for their efforts to support UTEP’s teacher residents.

“We’re working on developing the next generation of teachers and to be able to financially support them is just fantastic,” Mein said.

Christina Dunigan, CBF scholarship program director, praised Mein and other College of Education leaders for their dedication to provide a high-quality teacher preparation program. She said UTEP’s Miner Teacher Residency excited her foundation colleagues because of how it gives teacher candidates a full academic year to hone their craft with the support of carefully selected mentor teachers.

“UTEP plays a huge role in developing new teachers for the El Paso and West Texas communities, and we appreciate UTEP’s commitment to training a majority Latinx teacher candidate cohort to serve their community,” Dunigan said.

The college’s collaboration with the CBF started in 2019 after the foundation awarded a grant to support the transformation of the college’s teacher preparation program. That grew into UTEP becoming a Raising Texas Teachers Partner University. Dunigan said she hoped that Charles Butt Scholars would take advantage of every opportunity available to them to advance their careers and become leaders in their field.

The money each cohort member received goes toward coursework and the residency apprenticeship. It also funds professional development opportunities, access to mentors and a statewide network of other aspiring educators.

Two of the 10 UTEP cohort members — Robin Leos and Xavier Felix — work at El Dorado High School, 12401 Edgemere Blvd. Both expect to earn their Master of Arts in Education degree and teacher certification in summer 2022. They praised UTEP’s staff members for their help and support throughout the application and interview process.

Leos earned her bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from New Mexico State University in 2017. She worked as a tutor at Canutillo High School before a Texas-based civil engineering firm hired her. While she enjoyed that job, she said she missed interactions with students in a classroom.

After UTEP accepted her into its graduate program, she began the application process for the Charles Butt Scholarship, which included essays, a recorded lesson, group activities and an individual interview led by a panel of Raise Your Hand Texas Education Foundation representatives.

Leos said the Charles Butt Scholarship gave her the financial stability to transition to her new career. She appreciates the on-site mentors and looks forward to participation in the program’s annual conferences.

“The Charles Butt Scholarship gives additional support that is necessary to all new teachers in the field,” said Leos, who grew up in Vinton, a town about 19 miles north of El Paso. “That assistance is especially important for future students, like myself, with a wide-variety of professional backgrounds. The opportunity to have a support system that the Charles Butt Scholarship offers is incredible and priceless.”

Felix, an El Paso native, earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance from UTEP in 2021. He said the Charles Butt Scholarship application process was “demanding,” but it forced him to focus his energies to become a theatre arts teacher.

“Without the financial help, I would not have been able to dedicate the time necessary for my students to accomplish the growth I have seen,” Felix said.

College leaders are actively recruiting the next cohort of student teachers for the 2022-23 Charles Butt scholarships. The college is seeking individuals who already have bachelor’s degrees and are interested in becoming a teacher. Mein said the scholarships would pay for most of their tuition and fees. The priority deadline to apply for the M.A. program is March 1, 2022. Those who are accepted may apply for the Charles Butt Scholarship, which has a deadline of April 15, 2022.


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