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A Conversation with Education Dean Hector Ochoa

Dean Ochoa

Hector Ochoa became Dean of the College of Education in July 2014

Tell us about your background.

I was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley in deep South Texas along the U.S./Mexico border. My academic area of expertise is in assessment of special needs children who are English language learners. I believe that my education and life experiences have prepared me to serve the UNM College of Education and the state of New Mexico.

You have been at the College for a few months. What are your first impressions?

I have been amazed by the level of expertise and accomplishments of my faculty colleagues in the College. I am also very pleased that my faculty colleagues are genuinely committed to transforming the lives of the children of New Mexico. I am meeting one-on-one with each and every one of our more than 100 faculty in the College, and I can tell you that they are dedicated to our mission.

There has been a lot of focus on the way the College prepares teachers. How do you respond to critics who say the College needs to do better?

We prepare approximately one of every five teachers in the state. We all agree that the academic outcomes of children in public school in New Mexico need to be improved.

We are making some very innovative changes in the way we prepare our teachers, with a major grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Our recent graduates are very likely to accept positions in challenging environments.

We have begun to place teacher candidates in schools that mirror the demographics of our State. We have developed Transformational Action Groups (TAGs) which are comprised of interdisciplinary faculty from special education, bilingual education, physical education, educational leadership, school counseling, nutrition, family studies, and health education. The faculty TAGs are collaborating with teachers and school personnel to develop appropriate learning experiences for our teacher candidates.

You have a lot of responsibility. What do you do to relax?

I love spending time with my family. They are my greatest joy. My wife of 22 years is a special education teacher who works with students who are visually impaired. My daughter is a junior in college studying political science and my son is a senior in high school.

We have a special responsibility to the people of New Mexico. We will act on that responsibility.