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UTPA Substitute Teacher Certification Course enters 12th year
By Gail Fagan, Public Affairs Specialist
381-2741
Posted: 12/29/2004
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The Substitute Teacher Certificate Course at The University of Texas-Pan American will be entering its 12th year in 2005 with its first class of the year on Jan. 6 and 8.

The non-credit course, “Introduction to Substitute Teaching,” was developed by a committee of local school administrators and educators in 1993 and is designed to prepare those interested in employment as substitute teachers in Rio Grande Valley schools. The course, required by many Valley schools, covers topics such as classroom management, discipline management, professionalism, teaching techniques, interpreting lesson plans, child development, survival skills and much more. The $55 course fee includes 12 hours of instruction, training materials and a certificate of completion.

“We started this course in 1993 with one instructor because there were concerns about having adequately trained substitute teachers. Now most districts require this type training to substitute in their schools. We had almost 2,000 register for our courses in 2003-04 and we offered 33 classes. Since September 2004, we have trained almost 900 individuals,” said Mary Saenz, program coordinator in the Office of High School to University Services.

Instructing the course are four highly-qualified Valley educators – Socorro Sandoval, special education supervisor, Edinburg CISD; Erika Playle, principal at De La Vina Elementary School, Edinburg CISD; Irma Infante, assistant superintendent, South Texas Technology Inc., Weslaco; and Gilbert Gomez, science coordinator, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD.

Gomez, who formerly directed the Teacher Preparation Program at UTPA, said there is still a shortage of substitute teachers.

“As a science coordinator of 38 campuses of preK-12 science teachers, if I bring in a consultant for a day of training, simply for secondary teachers only that is 72 to 90 science teachers that need substitutes for that day. Subs are not just needed for sick days but when teachers are out with conferences and in-service training,” he said.

Gomez said the course is invaluable in preparing a person to teach in today’s classroom.

“They have to be aware of what is appropriate and not appropriate in regards to handling and speaking to children. Also, they are there to teach, not baby-sit. In the class, we go over the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) – what is essential for children to know – and the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) – that which is assessed,” he said, noting that he tries to give advice based on today’s classroom, which is “learner-centered” rather than “teacher-centered.”

The class is held at the UTPA Annex at 2412 S. Closner in Edinburg. The Thursday, Jan. 6, session is 5:30-9:30 p.m. and the Saturday, Jan. 8, session is 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Attendance at both sessions is required as well as completion of three hours of observation in a classroom within 30 days of completion of the course in order to successfully qualify for the certification. Usually, two sections of the course are offered monthly.

For more information on the course or to register, call 956/292-7570.

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