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A Conversation with Education Dean Hector Ochoa

“We are training teachers to look beyond the four walls of the classroom to learn about, understand, and appreciate the talents of a community.”

Dean Ochoa

Dean S. Hector Ochoa

The public is starting to hear about community schools. What are they, and how is the College supporting their development?

The College defines a community school as both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources. Its integrated focus on academics, services, supports, and opportunities leads to improved student learning, stronger families, and healthier communities. Such a school may offer after school programs, family learning events, homework dinners, literacy nights, health centers, informational programs, and more. While a community school might not offer all of these services, these are some of the possibilities. Former Education Dean and PNM Endowed Chair Vi Florez is active in supporting the development of community schools. As part of her work, the College partners with schools that seek to engage with parents and local resources. The College is also training teachers to look beyond the four walls of the classroom to learn about, understand, and appreciate the talents of a community.

What about the summer months, when children are not in school? What is the College implementing to help children keep learning?

We provide a wonderful camp called the Summer Youth Sports Program which had 450 children enrolled last year. This is a month-long program on the UNM campus. The camp offers team sports, dance, swimming, and other opportunities, including hands-on health, science, and math activities. We also provide meals and transportation to and from campus. Parents pay a nominal fee of $10; this makes it possible for all children to participate. It is a huge program that has been going on for many years. In fact, some of the UNM students working at the camp were former participants when they were children. The Summer Youth Sports Program helps keep children active during the summer, rather than sitting at home watching TV. In addition, it allows these children to walk on a college campus and perhaps envision themselves as being a student at UNM some day. At one time, government funding helped support the program, but that is no longer available, so we are actively looking for funding from the community.

How is the College working to attract excellent students into its teacher training program?

One way is the Accelerated Alternative Licensure Program (AALP) which is supported, in part, by funding from the New Mexico Public Education Department. The program allows someone coming from a STEM career (science, technology, engineering, math) to map out a pathway to a new career as a teacher. Already highly qualified in their content area, they learn the art of teaching through the College’s training program. Scholarships also help us recruit top students, both those who have just graduated from high school and those who are returning for an advanced degree.