Five questions for Frank Hernandez
Frank Hernandez is the dean of the College of Education at the University of Texas-Permian Basin. The mission of UTPB’s College of Education is to prepare pre-service and professional educators who are proactive in nurturing the life-long development of all learners. UTPB’s College of Education is focused on addressing the large achievement gap and low graduation rates affecting a disproportionate number of students in PK-12 schools across Texas – and particularly within the Permian Basin area. This effort involves transforming the ways in which the College trains pre-service teachers and leaders and becoming much more intentional about how it recruits, prepares, places and places and supports its students.
What was your first role working in education?
When I was 21, I worked at the Clark Street Friends (Quaker) House in Des Moines, Iowa. I worked with 25 students, ranging in age from 5 to 15 years old, from the Clark Street Neighborhood in downtown Des Moines during the late afternoon and evenings. I developed a summer school-like experience for the students, which included arts and crafts, literacy, field trips, educational games, outdoor activities, and dance. I also made breakfast snacks on the weekends, and dinner on the weekdays, for the students.
My first formal job was teaching third grade at Oaklawn Elementary, a school in the Derby Public Schools System located in South Wichita, Kansas.
What is one pivotal moment in your career in educator preparation that left a positive impact on you or others?
When I was an associate dean at Hamline University (Minn.), the Bush Foundation (Minn.) awarded a $7 million grant to Hamline and five other private colleges in the Twin Cities to transform teacher effectiveness in Minnesota. Overall the Bush Foundation awarded $36 million to 14 higher education programs across Minnesota and South and North Dakota.
As a result, Hamline and its five partners developed the Twin Cities Teacher Collaborative (TC2) and launched several evidence-based initiatives: a rigorous recruitment process, an institute for professional mentors, a residency program, an induction center, and an assessment/ accountability center. This experience left a positive impact on me personally and with our partners, and reinforced the notion that high-level collaboration and strong partnerships are critical to a successful initiative.
Why did you decide to join Deans for Impact?
As a dean of education, I have often felt isolated and alone in deciding what is good enough for my college and our teacher candidates. While my faculty are supportive in this conversation, I rarely have the opportunity to visit with other deans about challenges facing my college of education and those facing schools and colleges across the country. I am a member of Deans for Impact because I believe in its mission and believe this group can provide the network needed to improve the readiness of our teacher candidates. Collectively, Deans for Impact can assist in driving innovative programming and policy changes that support better data-driven and research-based decisions. Furthermore, I believe that Deans for Impact members can elevate the teaching profession and hold each other accountable by making our work more public and transparent.
What most excites you about the opportunity to transform the field of educator preparation in the years ahead?
Deans for Impact is a new voice in teacher preparation – a voice that is raising expectations for how we train our teachers and how we measure the impact our graduates have on their own K-12 students. I am excited about the influence Deans for Impact will have on policies that promote data-driven decisions, increase research and evidence-based innovations and best practices, and support transparency and accountability. Consequently, more K-12 students will graduate from high school meeting expectations, more students will be college-ready, more students will have the skills and knowledge for their chosen field of study, and more students will be taught to high standards.
What is one surprising thing that everyone should know about the program you lead?
UTPB, along with UT-Arlington, were the first two education colleges in the U.S. to implement the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Teacher Preparation Initiative (TPI). AVID TPI is an arm of AVID for Higher Education designed to impact teacher candidates as they enter their classrooms and begin supporting a college-going culture. Our AVID TPI focus is to provide teacher candidates with a deep understanding of, and practical experience with, AVID frameworks, methodologies, and strategies so that they enter the teaching field having analyzed and practiced instructional strategies that will make them successful in meeting a broad spectrum of student needs. Consequently, all educator-preparation faculty have been trained in all AVID teaching strategies and have mapped when AVID strategies will be introduced, reinforced, and assessed across their own curricula. The faculty at UTPB and one faculty member at UT-Arlington wrote the AVID TPI handbook. Today, more than 20 education schools use AVID TPI.
Editor’s Note: This post is part of an ongoing series featuring Q&As with all the member deans of Deans for Impact.