TWU and Houston ISD Partner Up to Combat Teacher Shortage

This article originally appeared in the North Texas Daily

Texas Woman’s University is helping around 100 teaching assistants obtain bachelor’s degrees and Texas teaching certifications, financed by $500,000 in grants awarded from Houston Independent School District. 

The grants come from HISD’s Grow Your Own grant program, which began in May 2023 in response to the national teacher shortage. HISD offered 10 grants of $100,000 this year to institutions that “offer high-quality, low-cost pathways to aspiring educators,” according to HISD.

TWU was one of three universities selected, the others being Prairie View A&M University and Tarleton State University, and received five out of the 10 grants, said Lisa Huffman, dean of the College of Professional Education and Department of Human Development professor.

“We are proud to have been selected and are excited to get started moving the needle and reducing the number of teacher vacancies in HISD,” Huffman said. “This was a true TWU system effort with the support of many offices at TWU, all committed to reducing the teacher shortage in Texas.”

TWU has its own program called Zero Tuition Guarantee, which benefits full-time students by paying their tuition and getting their bachelor’s. There are six eligibility requirements to qualify for the guarantee, including being a Texas resident and demonstrating financial need. 

With the grant, TWU will be able to pay for the tuition of education students not eligible for the Zero Tuition Guarantee program, Huffman said. The partnership will also help strive to recruit community members at TWU’s Houston campus.

According to a study from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the number of undergraduate degrees awarded annually for teaching has dropped from almost 200,000 in the 1970s to less than 90,000 in 2019. Huffman said TWU plans on making the most out of the help of HISD by providing dedicated teachers to their district for the possible outcome of slowly decreasing the teacher shortage.

“Education is critical to our nation’s success, and having effective and dedicated teachers in the classroom is essential,” Huffman said. “This partnership with HISD allows TWU and the College of Professional Education to visibly demonstrate our commitment to enhancing the welfare of Texas citizens by effectively preparing effective and dedicated teachers to stay in their communities and impact students’ lives positively.”

According to Huffman, while the teaching assistants are enrolled in TWU’s online courses, HISD will continue to pay them as full-time employees. TWU’s Houston campus will be offered help with on-site and online courses. This support will include advising, field supervision and professional development.

“While the students are completing our program, they will be working within HISD, gaining valuable hands-on experience,” Huffman said. “This model fits TWU’s motto of ‘Learn by Doing.’”

Huffman said as TWU and HISD continue to inspire future educators, they also encourage new college students who are still trying to figure out their career paths to look into the educational field. TWU Visual Arts freshman Alexandra Hill said the grant gives her more confidence in possibly changing majors.

“If that works out for me, I would love to be a librarian in the future just cause I am really passionate about books and reading,” Hill said. “Honestly, just with the fact that teaching is kind of the most important thing someone can do, teachers are just very important to the community that we grew up in.”

Huffman said TWU believes the program will continue encouraging different majors to look into the education field before sticking to a major and allowing the major change to be a smooth journey for anyone who chooses a new path. TWU Education freshman Arianna Salazar expressed excitement on what the future may hold for her.

“I am really passionate about teaching younger kids,” Salazar said. “Being able to create little good people of society is what motivates me.”

Huffman said the dedicated partnership will allow HISD to gain about 95 fully certified teachers in highly needed places in the region by fall 2025.