A Conversation with Education Dean Hector Ochoa
What is your vision for the College of Education?
It has two parts. First, I would like to see the College become the national model for preparing teachers to work with diverse populations. I believe that the demographics of New Mexico are representative of what will be common across the United States in coming years. It is critical that we prepare our teachers through both classroom learning and in-school training to be responsive to the needs of students, many of whom are Hispanic or Native American. Second, the College’s scholarly research can help inform future practices by addressing educational needs in the state and nation. Not only do we have incredible faculty who are working to provide answers to current needs, but we are also training doctoral students to continue the research.
The New Mexico public school system faces a number of challenges. What role can the College play in the coming decade?
My goal is to help the children of the state—to give them a foundation for success. It is critical that the College, the New Mexico Public Education Department, and local school districts work collaboratively to identify problems and find solutions. Communication between all of the stakeholders is very important so that we can solve problems together and hold each other accountable.
The College is working closely with Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) and with several rural school districts to help prepare teachers. The Transformational Action Groups (TAGs) project is one initiative for increasing the number of effective teachers in early childhood, elementary and secondary schools. Through TAGs, interdisciplinary faculty teams and teacher preparation candidates are working in four schools—Pueblo of San Felipe Head Start, San Felipe Pueblo Elementary School, Bernalillo High School, and APS’s Pajarito Elementary School in Albuquerque’s South Valley. By working together, all benefit. The cooperating teachers and schools receive assistance, the teacher candidates gain valuable experience, and the UNM faculty learn how to better prepare teachers.
From your experience and research, what have you known to be successful programs in other public school systems with demographics similar to those in New Mexico?
First, there are dual-language programs that develop both a student’s native language and English skills. These programs reduce dropout rates, improve college readiness, and insure that a student will be bilingual for life. Another program is the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. In McAllen, Texas, the IB program provides a rigorous curriculum that begins in elementary school. The high school students who continue in this optional program demonstrate outstanding academic performance and are critical thinkers and problem solvers.