UTPA receives grant to prepare local early childhood teachers in Hidalgo County
Posted: 03/09/2006
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The University of Texas-Pan American will help better prepare local early childhood educators through the South Texas Advantage Project (STAP) for Head Start teachers.

Pictured from left to right at a press conference to announce the STAP grant are Dr. Hilda Medrano, professor in the College of Education; Myrna G. Perez, STAP project coordinator; Dr. Mary Alice Reyes, regional director for Texas Migrant Council Head Start; Dr. Velma Menchaca, interim dean for the College of Education; Mary G. Capello, chief executive officer for Texas Migrant Council, Inc. - Laredo; Dr. Dora L. Salazar, STAP director; and Catarina Rodriguez, STAP secretary.
"The purpose of the South Texas Advantage Project is to increase the number of Head Start teachers with degrees and to provide long-term professional development and training in developmentally appropriate practices for adult learners preparing to work with diverse populations of Hispanic young children and their families," said Dr. Dora Salazar, STAP director and UTPA associate professor of curriculum and instruction.

The project will prepare and support individuals teaching in Head Start centers in Hidalgo County and with the Texas Migrant Council (TMC) to obtain bachelor's degrees in interdisciplinary studies with a teaching certificate in early childhood through fourth grade generalist and bilingual.

UT Pan American has been awarded a $750,000 grant from the Department of Health and Human Services: Administration for Children and Families for the South Texas Advantage Project. The grant will be paid to the University in increments of $150,000 per year for five years.

The project is now accepting applications from individuals who are currently working as Head Start teachers in Hidalgo County or with TMC. Individuals who plan to work as Head Start teachers are also eligible to apply.

Those accepted to the project will receive full-tuition scholarships to UT Pan American, professional development opportunities, advising and mentoring, and support via the Web-based communication system for participants, among other things.

Additionally, project participants will receive review sessions for the Texas Higher Education Assessment (THEA) and the Texas Examinations of Educator Standards (TExES) exams. They will also receive training on the creation of print-rich environments, dual-language instruction for English language learners, age-appropriate practices for early childhood children, early literacy training, ongoing evaluation of student's progress, scaffolding instruction, the use of technology in teaching and the Web-based communication system with the electronic learning community, among others.

Program participants must maintain contact with the STAP grant coordinators after they complete the program and serve as mentors for the electronic learning community.

Currently, Head Start teachers are required to have an associate's degree; however, new federal educational mandates require all teachers to obtain bachelor's degrees by 2008. Head Start is a comprehensive, child-centered, family-focused, community based development program geared for financially challenged and at risk young children. The STAP grant will impact a targeted population of more than 6,800 children from birth to age four whose families are financially challenged.

"The project hopes to establish and maintain collaborative relationships between UTPA, Hidalgo County Head Start, and the Hidalgo County Texas Migrant Council Head Start," Salazar said. "It will also better prepare future teachers, retain new ones, and increase the number of teaching staff with early childhood educational qualifications and certification, and professional commitment to promote children's learning and development."

For more information about the STAP grant or to apply for the program, contact 956/381-2471.