José Saldivar tops in nation at inspiring first-year college students
Posted: 05/01/2014
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When a student steps into the circle José Saldivar sets up in his classroom at The University of Texas-Pan American, the UNIV 1301 Learning Frameworks lecturer wants it to be, above all else, a safe and nurturing environment.

- José Saldivar
"Whatever is shared in the circle does not leave the circle," he said. "My chief goal is that my students feel comfortable learning."

Saldivar's ability to connect with students has garnered him consistently high student evaluations and recently prestigious national recognition. Early this year Saldivar received the 2014 McGraw-Hill Excellence in Teaching First-Year Seminar Award.

This annual award is jointly sponsored by McGraw-Hill Higher Education and the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition (at the University of South Carolina). The award recognizes one instructor who has achieved great success in teaching first-year seminars and who inspires student learning, development and success.

Saldivar, a graduate from Edcouch-Elsa High School who earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees from Stanford University, is one of the initial instructors of the Learning Frameworks course established in 2004 to improve students' understanding of the learning process and their ability to succeed in college. In 2011, the course was recognized as an "Example of Excelencia" by Excelencia in Education for its impact on Latino student college success.

"José is particularly skilled at integrating culture and ethnicity into his classes through readings, discussion and self-reflective assignments. His excellent integration of culture into his class and his personal example as a successful Mexican-American teacher are invaluable to our students," said Dr. Kristin Croyle, vice provost for Undergraduate Education.

One of his most popular course projects is a student commercial and video project in which students showcase and "sell" one of the many campus resources to their classmates.

"I've read and learned so much about teaching and one of the things I've found most fascinating is that if you want to be an expert, teach someone else, and for my students, I make sure they go through that process, whether it's through a commercial or a service learning project, and that they understand the material and can share it with others," said Saldivar, who picked up his $1,000 award at a First-Year Experience Conference held in San Diego, Calif. in earlier this year.