Supported by grant funding awarded to Spring ISD through the Texas COVID Learning Acceleration Supports (TCLAS) program, the district has named six campus staff members chosen for a special “Grow Your Own” initiative aimed at developing a pipeline of highly qualified teachers for Spring ISD classrooms. The six staff members – all of whom currently serve as classroom paraprofessionals – will receive funding and other supports to assist them in achieving their goal of becoming certified teachers.
“There is nothing more important for the success of our students than having qualified, committed, and compassionate educators in the classroom to support them in their learning and development, and to help them reach their full potential,” said Spring ISD Superintendent Dr. Lupita Hinojosa. “These dedicated paraprofessionals have already proven themselves in their work with our students, and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity, through this grant funding, to empower them to take their careers to the next level.”
The six Spring ISD staff members selected to take part in the program are:
- Samantha Lewis, Dueitt Middle School
- LaJuana Martin, Roberson Middle School
- Natashia McNeese, Heritage Elementary School
- Leslie Ochoa, Hirsch Elementary School
- Jasma Seymour, McNabb Elementary School
- Alba Sosa, Westfield Victory Prep
After announcing the program and holding information sessions for more than 80 interested paraprofessionals across Spring ISD, the district reviewed applications and selected the final group of six, who will formally begin the program in June.
The initiative includes two separate pathways, one for current Spring ISD paraprofessionals who already have their college degree and only need their teacher certification, and another for those with at least 75 college credits who are looking both to complete their bachelor’s degree and acquire their certification. Lewis and Sosa are in the first pathway, while the latter group includes Martin, McNeese, Ochoa and Seymour.
The certification-only candidates will complete their preparation through iTeach Texas, while the degree-seeking candidates will complete their certification requirements through their university program, all at no cost to them. In addition to funding the teacher certification process, the program also includes $18,000 toward college tuition and fees for those working to finish their degree. For all of the participants, additional stipends are aimed at helping with incidental expenses related to the program. In return, applicants each made a two-year teaching commitment to Spring ISD after earning their certification.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) oversees the TCLAS grant program, with the grants being principally supported through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). ESSER was established as part of COVID-19 relief legislation passed by Congress in 2020, and allows state educational agencies like TEA to award grants to school districts and other local educational agencies to help them mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on students and schools.
Spring ISD’s Board of Trustees voted in December to approve the district’s TCLAS grant proposal, which included the “Grow Your Own” program aimed at promoting talented district staff members, as well as additional initiatives across the district to overcome challenges posed by the pandemic.