Making the Credential Work in the Far West GREAT Region
by Maria Cesnik
Thirty-three newly credentialed teachers were honored at the El Paso Literacy & Language (EPALL) Conference in December 2011. In the Far West Region, a total of 46 teachers have earned the Texas Adult Education Teacher Credential.
Working on the Texas Adult Education Teacher Credential used to be a somewhat daunting process that mystified many folks – teachers and sometimes even administrators. There would be a PDPW (Professional Development Planning Workshop) that lasted six hours and teachers would be assigned several things as homework including a Letter of Intent, Letter of Support, and Professional Development (PD) Plan that, initially, they would have to complete on a paper form because the process was not electronic. Then teachers had to fax all those letters and forms in, receive their username and password, write their first reflection, and submit it all by themselves. Given all that, I believe some teachers probably got discouraged by the lengthy process and quit before even getting started. In 2010, the Far West GREAT Center began to work more closely with Credential staff in an effort to increase participation in the Credential. We scheduled a PDPW and had Elizabeth Moya and Laura Hansen, themselves credentialed teachers, as presenters. Because they had completed their Credential a couple of years earlier, they were in a unique position to offer a suggestion that I thought made sense: instead of holding the PDPW for six hours, they proposed we do it in nine hours – on three different evenings, which meant working from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. on three different Fridays. Credential staff provided the booklets and electronic documents and was supportive of our decision to modify the PDPW to better meet the needs of teachers in our region.
During the first three-hour session, the presenters did a brief introduction to the Credential and the paperwork to be completed. During the following week, the participants completed all the forms, got their administrators' signatures, and submitted all the paperwork to the Credential office. For the second session, the presenters did a brief review of the previous one and spent a lot of time explaining reflection writing. The assigned homework was to write a reflection on their PDPW experience and start writing a reflection on one of their PD activities as well.
On the final session, participants already had access to Cred- ITS and were ready to learn and practice the steps to submit their reflections electronically. Before they actually submitted their reflections, the facilitators put the participants in pairs and had them review and critique each other's writings. By the end of the evening, they were on their way. They had their PD plans and all information and tools they needed to complete the Credential.
We at the Far West GREAT looked for ways to assist, engage
and support our instructors. In order to help participants document
their professional development history to determine the
points they may claim toward the credential, we went into
TEAMS and printed the participants' staff development history
for each of the last five years. Additionally, we provided each
participant with a detailed spreadsheet containing training
titles, presenters' names, dates, locations, and the number of
hours for the trainings they had attended. We also provided a
flash drive with all the Credential forms and templates to each
participant. Our making the process easier had immediate and
clear results: armed with a lot of motivation, information, and
support, our leader teachers went to work and most of them
attained the Credential by the end of the semester.
Some of the participants did not have a computer at home,
so we loaned them laptops from the Far West GREAT Center
technology kits. Others had a computer but no access to the
Internet, so we made our training room available for them to
come over and work on their Credential and submit their reflections.
Besides the above supports, we also hold "Credential Reflection
Writing Parties!" We invite all teachers who have completed
a PDPW but never finished the Credential. We hold the
party in a computer lab and participants are required to write
and submit at least two full reflections. In exchange for their effort,
we provide them a free lunch. The Credential office sends
us two staff members to assist the teachers and give them
instant feedback on their reflections, and by the end of the day,
the magic is done. Reflections are submitted and the now confident
teachers get excited and continue working on their own.
We also send the participants a weekly news email encouraging
them, celebrating any completers we might have had
during the previous week, mentioning that we had several
teachers with 75 points, or 35, or whatever points they had
earned recently. Teachers enjoy seeing their peers' progress
recognized and tracked; there was one week when I was not
able to send the weekly email and several called me to ask
why not – they were expecting the emails and missed knowing
the latest about their cohort.
Additionally, we often send them brief email notes congratulating
them on getting a reflection approved, reminding them to
review any reflections that might have been sent back for clarification,
and so on.
A new credential completion is always an occasion for celebration
at the Far West GREAT Center. We believe we are training
teacher leaders because there seems to be something special
about the teachers who are credentialed: is it more self-confidence,
more poise, perhaps more dedication to their work, and
pride in their accomplishments? We believe it's all of those
things and more.
We have noticed that the credentialed teachers themselves
are guiding, inspiring, and motivating other teachers to pursue
their Credential. Some have mentioned that they now believe
they can go back to school and get their master's degree. All
readily agree that the Credential has helped them in many
It seems that the secret of the Far West GREAT's success with
getting teachers to complete their Adult Education Credential is
rather simple: provide them good, solid training, help them establish
a can-do frame of mind from the very beginning, guide
them as much as possible through the initial phases, encourage
and believe in them along the way, and celebrate each
teacher as if they were our very first completer.
About the Author
Maria J. Cesnik is the Coordinator of the Far West GREAT Center in El Paso. She holds a Master's of Education degree from Ball State University in Muncie, IN. She has been instructional coordinator for Ysleta Community Learning Center and taught ESL for several years. She also serves on several advisory boards and councils related to adult education and staff development throughout the state of Texas.