Posted on May 9, 2022 by Christopher Reichert


The Texas Education Agency State Board for Educator Certification has commended UTSA’s educator preparation program (EPP) for seeking innovative ways to prepare teacher candidates for the classroom.  

The commendation recognizes the EPP’s collective vision and cutting-edge work to best meet the needs of the community, said Associate Dean of Professional Preparation and Partnerships, Belinda Bustos Flores.  

“I always say we lead and not follow,” Flores explained. “We optimize our opportunities and our partnerships with the school districts to ensure that our teacher candidates, our principals, counselors, everybody has an opportunity to grow and become the future teachers and leaders of tomorrow.”  

One of these innovations is transitioning from traditional, semester-long clinical teaching experiences to a year-long teaching residency. By placing teacher candidates in the same classroom with the same teacher for a whole year, Flores says they have more opportunities to connect with the teachers, children, schools, and communities.  

“The demands on first-year teachers and the expectations of school districts is that even when you’re a first-year teacher you walk in ready to teach, not having to learn how to do things,” she said.  

 Innovation has also played a crucial role in the program’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to best prepare students for the realities of the classroom, Flores says the teaching candidates had been learning to integrate technology into their teaching, even before the pandemic began. This gave them an advantage when schools around the nation began transitioning to online and hybrid learning. In fact, Flores says that the school districts reported UTSA’s clinical teachers were some of the most successful at adapting to the quickly changing environment and were already familiar with many of the necessary platforms. For Flores, these successes point directly back to the work done in the EPP.  

“That adaptability doesn’t come without us providing them a variety of opportunities and experiences in the educator preparation program, where they’re able to practice this,” she said.  

In addition to identifying the ways in which UTSA is innovating teacher preparation, Flores believes the commendation also recognizes the work of the faculty and clinical supervisors involved. She also sees it as furthering the reputation of UTSA – already known for its status as a Hispanic Serving Institute (HSI) and an R1 research university – and the students who pass through the EPP.  

“Those are great indicators of the type of university and the quality of education that they receive,” Flores said. “And now, specifically in the case of their program as future teachers, the program they’ve attended is being recognized as being innovative. That adds value to their degree and their preparation as a teacher.”  

For now, Flores says, the bar has been set for other schools, but there remains work to do.  

“We want to keep up not just an image of being the best, but actually demonstrating that we are the best,” she said.  

Going forward, one of the goals of the EPP will be to increase the number of teaching candidates who enter the program as schools across the country are experiencing teacher shortages. In conjunction with increased recruiting, Flores says the program will work to sustain its high retention rate, or even increase it. Nevertheless, the EPP won’t be sacrificing quantity for quality.  

“We want to not just increase the number but also to make sure we provide the knowledge and skills so those wonderful, highly-qualified, culturally efficacious teachers stay in the field and serve the community for a long time,” Flores said.  

For more information on the Educator Preparation Program’s teacher residency program, visit COEHD Professional Preparation - Residency .

-Christopher Reichert

— Christopher Reichert