Promise of Support, Mentors Convinces Award-Winning Teacher to Train with HCDE

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July 29, 2019 by HCDE-Texas

Bilingual teacher Maria Camila Escobar Fuller doesn’t mince words when she gives advice to aspiring teachers.

“Think twice about it,” she said. “It is not just a job. Teaching is a responsibility and a vocation.”

Post-college, Fuller was a behavior therapist for children with autism. When pursuing alternative certification programs to become a certified teacher, the college grad did extensive research and chose Harris County Department of Education. Reasons included a stellar customer service reputation; face-to-face classes combined with online offerings; and teacher support.

The native Spanish speaker from Columbia now teaches kindergartners at Love Elementary in the Houston Independent School District. She was recently honored as one of the top three winners of Texas Alternative Certification Association’s Intern of the Year Award. She will be presented with a $1,000 check and trophy at the Consortium of State Organizations for Texas Teacher Education annual conference in Dallas in October.

Fuller is also nominated for the National Association for Alternative Certification’s 2020 Outstanding New Teacher Award to be announced in December.

The first-year teacher benefitted from veteran teacher mentors within HCDE’s Educator Certification and Advancement Academy (ECA) Division. Ongoing professional networking and support are cornerstones of the program.

“Ms. Ellie, my field supervisor, literally adopted me and provided me feedback when I was desperate at the beginning of the school year,” Fuller said. “At first I felt like teaching was the most overwhelming thing I encountered and now I am at peace and really enjoy being with my students every day. (Now) I am starting to love teaching.”

For 12 years, HCDE’s teacher educator program has provided teacher training to college grads and second-career seekers. The ECA division also trains and prepares principals and superintendents for certification.

“For the past seven years, our program has reported a 99 percent pass rate for students completing course and taking the certification exams,” said Lidia Zatopek, a veteran teacher and administrator who leads the program as division director.

Through the teacher prep program, Fuller gained theories of education which helped in laying a foundation for her career, especially as a bilingual educator. She said the veteran educators leading it delivered a treasure-trove of resources, including graphic organizers and templates.

“It’s funny, but I use them every day during my (lesson) planning,” said Fuller.

Still, it’s the support, she said, which is the most asset of the teacher alternative certification program.

“I am genuinely grateful for the community I have in this program and the incredible role models,” she said.

HCDE is recruiting teachers for its Teacher Alternative Certification Program. For more information, go to www.hcde-texas.org/teach-and-lead.

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