COPE, Houston ISD partnership hits stride

Students and faculty at professional development at TWU Houston

Dec. 5, 2023 — HOUSTON — The College of Professional Education (COPE) has been working diligently to support Houston ISD’s Grow Your Own efforts to turn paraprofessionals into bachelor’s-educated certified teachers. Starting with a $500,000 grant award paired with TWU’s Zero Tuition Guarantee, the college has not only been recruiting students for the spring semester but already educating enrolled students this fall. 

Both efforts were on display at TWU Houston on a recent Saturday. COPE Dean Lisa Huffman, PhD, and Associate Dean Maria Peterson, PhD, led an in-person information session for Houston ISD paraprofessionals while Assistant Clinical Professor Jennifer Quong, PhD, and adjunct professor Jennifer Flanagan conducted an in-person professional development session for students currently enrolled. 

The impact of COPE’s partnership with Houston ISD on paraprofessionals in the school district is undeniable. 

“I've been wanting to be a teacher for a while now. I've always wanted my degree, but, you know, life happens. I always needed guidance and support, but never really felt the support that I needed,” said Valeria Boulouf, an info session attendee who will pursue a Bachelor of Science in Education with certification in EC-6 Core Subjects with Bilingual.

“Immediately I felt the warmth and that [Huffman and Peterson] cared for my future. They seemed so genuine. For them to be passionate about what they're doing and believing in the vision for teachers and preparing teachers for the real world — I believe in that 100%.”

Dean Lisa Huffman discusses enrolling at TWU with prospective student

Boulouf completed her application to TWU before the end of the info session. As excited as Boulouf and others are to pursue a bachelor’s degree and Texas teacher certification, COPE faculty and administration find it equally rewarding to guide students along the path.

“Hearing the 'why' from students is why I do what I do. Education is not a one size fits all approach at any level, and that's why it's important to meet students where they are at to ensure that they have what they need to be successful from the start of the application process to graduation,” Peterson said. “Making meaningful connections is part of ensuring that students are successful.”

Faculty in the Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education program, despite being based in Denton, are doing their part to enrich meaningful connections with in-person professional development days in Houston.

Quong and Flanagan received much of the same positive feedback from students in the program’s initial cohort. They walked away Saturday afternoon raving about how useful and beneficial the professional development was for them. 

“I wouldn’t go anywhere else,” said Tiffany Williams, a current student pursuing her bachelor’s in early childhood education and certification in Early Childhood: Pre-K-3.

The partnership between Houston ISD and TWU’s College of Professional Education is still in the early stages, but is funded for 95 Houston ISD teaching assistants to earn degrees and certification in high-need teaching areas such as early childhood education, elementary education, special education and bilingual education.

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Joshua Flanagan
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Page last updated 11:06 AM, December 5, 2023