Congressman Rubén Hinojosa attends grand opening of UTPA Teacher Recruitment Center
By Scott Maier, Senior Editor
Posted: 02/24/2000
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Congressman Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) was the guest of honor Thursday as The University of Texas-Pan American College of Education officially opened the South Texas Quality Recruitment, Retention and Assistance Center.

The new center is designed to attract students into the teaching profession and assist teachers already teaching in school districts but not certified. UTPA is the largest graduating bilingual education institution in the state and the second largest teacher-certifying program, graduating more than 500 education majors every year.

"I know good things are going to come from this," said Clarissa Lara, project director for the U.S. Department of Education. "This program is going to be a model for South Texas, the state and the nation."

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Participating in the ribbon cutting are, from left, Clarissa Lara, U.S. Dept. of Education; Dr. Hilda Medrano, dean of the College of Education; Congressman Ruben Hinojosa; and UTPA President Miguel A. Nevárez.

Last fall, UTPA was awarded a $1.1 million grant toward the recruitment and retention of high quality teachers for the Rio Grande Valley. This Title II Quality Enhancement Program grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, is being used to establish and institutionalize the center over a three-year period.

A large part of the College of Education¹s recruitment program centers on awarding scholarships to prospective education students, said Michelle Alvarado, director of recruitment activities. As such, staff has visited various high schools throughout the Valley, attended career fairs and arranged campus visits to promote the College of Education and its programs.

"The purpose of this center is to recruit dedicated individuals into the teaching profession," Alvarado said. "We¹re also going to assist those teachers who need certification and are teaching already to come back and complete their certification."

The grant is being used to recruit and train educators in six areas, Hinojosa said. They are bilingual education, English as a second language, special education, mathematics, science and reading.

"Washington, D.C., has just realized what the rest of us have known for years," Hinojosa said. "The South Texas Rio Grande Valley area has a wealth of young, energetic talent which can be and must be harnessed into our classrooms."

According to Dr. Hilda Medrano, dean of the UTPA College of Education, the grant came from a proposal submitted by the University in response to a challenge from the U.S. Department of Education. That challenge was to fill the demand for two million teachers during the next decade to fill positions vacated by people retiring, leaving the profession or through growth.

And already, the new program has created some unexpected positive results.

"We have drawn some freshmen who had not intended to enter the teaching profession," Medrano said. "But through the recruitment efforts that have been made, we also have been able to recruit top entering freshmen. We also are committed to recruiting paraprofessionals, clerical workers and people c(T¿