Schools developing master’s program for teachers

HARLINGEN — The world of teaching.

It is indeed a world unto itself.

It’s layered with grade levels, limitations and advantages. Teaching strategies are interwoven with individual learning styles. Economics at home impact learning opportunities away from the classroom, and those experiences strongly impact children’s performance in school.

There are special needs children and English language learners, college applications and financial aid, trades classes and state exams, and …

To make all this work, administrators and teachers must be in the pilot’s seat managing finances, human resources and other operations of the school district.

An especially powerful tool in that effort is a master’s degree in educational leadership. The Harlingen school district has just signed an agreement with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to develop that master’s program.

“It’s actually going to be both institutions coming together to deliver the masters,” said Veronica Kortan, administrator for organizational development with the district.

“The courses are going to be just for the teachers or employees of the Harlingen school district,” Kortan said. “All of the classes are going to be at the University Center at Texas State Technical College.”

Each entity has its own role. The school district will identify teachers and other employees who wish to pursue the master’s program. The role of the university is to ensure the availability of professors and other instructors to deliver the course work.

The classes have been aligned with activities at the district to provide for “authentic learning” experiences, Kortan said. For example, during the spring semester when the district is working on its budget for the coming year, master’s candidates for educational leadership will have their finance courses at the same time.

They can gain real world learning by observing the budget process first hand while taking those courses. The same goes for other areas of educational leadership.

“My area is professional development and professional learning,” Kortan said. “When there they’re learning about effective techniques for that, I would come in and work with the professor to deliver part of that curriculum.”

The whole concept seems to come around in a circle. Teachers extend authentic learning experiences to students, but it doesn’t stop there.

“We want to make sure that we also have authentic opportunities for those that are aspiring leaders,” Kortan said.

“They would have opportunities to be a part of district-level initiatives. We would imbed them in those experiences. When they graduate they not only have the theory, they also have hands-on experiences.”

Each cohort, or group, of master’s candidates will be made up of 15 teachers. The course will begin this summer.