By Rebecca Bell
Dean of Community Relations & Special Events
Midland College (MC) is proud to be the recipient of its second Texas School Ready grant from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. The two-year, $349,480 grant focuses on professional development, coaching and mentoring for pre-k, Head Start and private child care teachers throughout West Texas.
“Texas School Ready is a comprehensive preschool teacher training program combining a research-based, state-adopted curriculum with ongoing professional development and progress monitoring tools,” explained Denise McKown, MC department chair of Education and Child Care and Development. “The goal of this program is to help children be better prepared for school. Midland College received a similar grant in 2015, and we hire a coordinator to lead professional development activities for teachers in Midland, Odessa and rural West Texas communities. Our goal is to continue those efforts with this additional funding.”
Throughout the school year, an MC coordinator and coach will provide tools to help pre-school teachers learn more about the specific instructional needs of the children in their classrooms and how to support children by using engaging lessons and activities. The new skills and techniques that teachers learn through the Texas School Ready program positively affect the classroom experience for children.
“The grant not only provides personnel to assist local teachers, but also provides curriculum materials and a laptop computer to the facilities for tracking the children’s progress,” said Lori Smith, MC associate professor of Child Development/Early Childhood. “Our child development instructional programming at Midland College is two-fold: We prepare students to be capable teachers, and we also provide professional development opportunities for teachers who are currently employed in the industry. We are so thankful for the grant funds that will allow us to offer the mentoring and continuing education services at no charge to the teachers.”
According to the Texas School Ready website, multiple research studies conducted by the Children’s Learning Institute at McGovern Medical School, UT Health, have confirmed that the program positively impacts teacher instructional practices in the classroom. Participating teachers are more responsive to the individual needs of the children in their classrooms. Research indicates increases in children’s use of language-building strategies and quality of book reading. Even greater gains have been found in emergent literacy instructional practices. Teachers also show better responsive teaching practices, organization of their centers and use of lesson plans.