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UNM Program Collaborates With Albuquerque School

Kindergarten teacher Melissa Pease invites class participation in a counting exercise. Ms. Pease joined the staff at Pajarito Elementary School after completing her student teaching as part of the Transformational Action Group at the school.

Kindergarten teacher Melissa Pease invites class participation in a counting exercise. Ms. Pease joined the staff at Pajarito Elementary School after completing her student teaching as part of the Transformational Action Group at the school.

Teacher candidate Sumarin Brum notices a boy who is not participating with other students working on a project. Brum joins the discussion, giving positive feedback. Soon, the reluctant student begins to contribute to the group. Later, he participates in class by raising his hand to answer questions.

Small successes such as this one are celebrated regularly by Brum and the rest of the Transformational Action Group (TAG) at Pajarito Elementary School in Albuquerque’s South Valley.

Program Benefits Teacher Candidates & School

The TAG Program, a College of Education initiative which began in the spring of 2015 with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is designed to give teacher candidates valuable experience teaching in a rural or semi-rural school setting with a large minority and/or Native population. The TAG also brings new ideas to the school while infusing goodwill into the community.

The Pajarito TAG is one of three assigned to area schools. Each TAG includes input from 6-10 UNM faculty from diverse disciplines across the COE. The collaboration is designed to foster an integration of expertise which will benefit the teacher candidate, the school, and the teacher preparation program at UNM.

Nancy Wasser, Clinical Faculty from UNM’s Department of Teacher Education, Educational Leadership and Policy, supervises, mentors, and coaches the teacher candidates at Pajarito. As an embedded faculty member at the school, she also models teaching techniques, co-teaches with the teacher candidates on occasion, and leads an on-site seminar.

The TAG Program is mutually beneficial for both teacher candidates and the school. The teacher candidates demonstrate techniques that they have learned in their teaching methodology coursework, and UNM faculty provide professional development to the partner school. “I have seen how the positive effects ripple out into the school,” says Wasser.

Real-World Feedback for Teacher Preparation

The TAG Program also brings long-term benefits to the university. Professor and PNM Endowed Chair Vi Florez says, “What’s significant about this project is that it helps us look internally at what it is we are teaching our students.” The goal is to take the real-world feedback and exchange of ideas across disciplines and then make adjustments in the teacher education curriculum in order to prepare highly effective classroom teachers.

“I have seen how the positive effects ripple out into the school.” —Nancy Wasser