Clifton Tanabe, Ph.D., dean of the College of Education

UTEP’s new Alternative Certification Plan for Teachers Includes Master’s Degree

The University of Texas at El Paso’s College of Education recently launched an innovative program that will assist individuals with bachelor’s degrees to earn their alternative certification and a Master of Arts in Education in one year.

Two keys to the program are a full-year residency at one of two area schools that serve Pre-K-8 students and stipends provided by key community partners.

The novice educators will be guided by mentor teachers and college faculty members who will serve as on-site instructional coaches.

The program will help the college to compete against other alternative certification programs (ACP). The rigor, quality and practice-based learning of the UTEP plan promises a “top-notch” alternative certification experience and a graduate degree in a year, said Clifton Tanabe, Ph.D., dean of the College of Education.

“This is huge,” said Tanabe, who credits Erika Mein, Ph.D., associate dean for undergraduate studies and educator preparation, and her team, for the development of this program. “We did a lot of prep work to ensure the focus was on relevance, responsiveness and quality.”

The summer cohort started June 8, 2020, with 22 students who will receive a year’s worth of on-site instructional coaching that will better prepare them to be job-ready graduates. They were selected from approximately 50 applicants. These students will be placed at Ernesto Serna School (PK-8) and Rio Bravo Middle School from the Socorro and Ysleta independent school districts, respectively.

College leaders and faculty members started to revamp the program with the help of representatives from the Ysleta and Socorro school districts, and the University-School Partnerships for the Renewal of Educator Preparation (US PREP), a national organization that offers technical assistance with institutions of higher education that want to create and share best practices.

“This was not an easy task and it was not done in a vacuum,” Tanabe said. “We are working with partners who are really excited about this. We believe we have created the right structure to support our goals as well as for future growth. It is innovative and responsive. It’s for the student who is serious about becoming a professional educator.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, program organizers offered the initial summer courses in an online format. They understand that the school districts will start their academic years in the same way. Tanabe said that program leaders continue to re-examine their fall plan for the cohort to ensure that the students get as much practice-based experience as possible – even if it is virtual.

“We have a strong framework,” Tanabe said. “It’s experimental, but exciting. If we do this first year right, we believe this is going to be another effective and sustainable way for the college to serve our region’s schools and ultimately the children they educate.”

People who want to learn more about this program may click here or send questions to