During the residency, candidates complete a master’s degree in educational leadership online at no cost through Texas Tech and earn a principal certification – all while continuing to earn their teaching salary. | Photo courtesy SISD
Three teachers in the Socorro Independent School District are completing an innovative professional development program in a partnership with Texas Tech University College of Education that has enabled them to earn a master’s degree and principal certification.
The Texas Tech Principal Fellows program is funded by a grant from the Texas Education Agency and provides teachers an opportunity to enroll in the tuition free principal fellowship program.
SISD recently was awarded the grant for the second time, which will give two more teachers the opportunity to participate in the innovative program next school year. It is a nationally recognized, job-embedded graduate program that gives educators first-hand, real-world experience to become campus leaders.
“We are super excited that we were able to host this program,” said Alisa Zapata, assistant superintendent of elementary education for SISD. “This is part of providing those endless opportunities for all of the stakeholders in our district.”
The Texas Tech Principal Fellows Program is a rigorous process that began with 400 impressive candidates, out of which three were selected in Team SISD to participate.
The current principal fellows are Cynthia Acosta, who was participating at Ernesto Serna School, Jesus Vasquez Jr. at Col. John O. Ensor Middle School, and Sonia Duffy, interning at William D. Slider Middle School.
All three are educators at campuses within the district; however, as part of the fellowship they were placed at other campuses to learn how to adapt in a new environment and gain crucial hands-on experience.
During the residency, candidates complete a master’s degree in educational leadership online at no cost through Texas Tech and earn a principal certification – all while continuing to earn their teaching salary.
“Working alongside the Texas Tech professors, they’ve guided us throughout this process and given us a lot of tools that we may not have received in a regular principal’s fellowship program,” Vasquez said. “Being able to go into the classroom has been instrumental.”
Adaptability is a necessary characteristic for school administrators to possess, and, during this school year throughout the pandemic, the three educators had a unique, first-hand experience in developing that trait.
The fellows, alongside their school’s administration, had to maneuver through various challenges to ensure that their students received a quality education.
The educators agreed the experience has more than adequately prepared them for future challenging situations. They also said the program requires intensive, hard work, but it is an invaluable residency to learn how to be a school leader.
“I was still paying off college loans, so when I got the call that I got my master’s degree paid for I cried,” Duffy said. “Everything has been taken care of so that I can focus on my learning. It is something that I can never expresses into words how thankful I am.”
Realizing that a free and quality graduate education is not the easiest to secure, all three fellows urge teachers to apply for this exceptional opportunity.
“This is a once in a lifetime experience,” Acosta said. “It’s just great to be able to trust the process and the guidance that they give us so that it all falls into place and we are able to grow into better educators.”
The three fellows gave a presentation on March 25 to SISD and TTU administration and representatives entailing their experience, growth, and contributions over the last year as part of their finalization of their residencies.
SISD is one of only five school districts across the state to receive the TEA principal residency grant.
For the 2020-2021 school year, the district received $210,000 in funding. In the 2021-2022 school year SISD will receive $140,000 to fund two more ambitious teachers in their education journey.