Texas Tech Aids in Student's Transition

by ABBY TOMLINSON

May 07, 2010

If Maria Esparza's current job is within the backbone of the educational system, her future position is in the heart. Today, she works as an administrative assistant for the director of the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) service center. In May 2011, she will finish her Texas Tech University degree program and move into the heart of the district as a DISD teacher.

She is earning her degree through a unique partnership between Texas Tech University and the Dallas County Community College District. The partnership allows students to take lower-division coursework on-campus at one of several community colleges and then transfer to Texas Tech to complete the required upper-division coursework online for a Bachelor of Science in Multidisciplinary Studies. The program is called Project TEACH because completion of the combined coursework allows students to become a certified teacher.

Esparza is bilingual, and she plans to use her knowledge of Spanish to help students learn English.

"When I started working with Dallas Independent School District 17 years ago, I was surrounded by students who needed the service," Esparza said. "I knew how it felt to come to a new school in a new city and I wanted to help them learn English."

Although most of the coursework she has taken at Cedar Valley College is face-to-face, most of Texas Tech's coursework for the program is online. Esparza said the adjustment was difficult at first, but some of the program's leaders helped her through the transition.

"Dr. Salazar and her colleagues have been very instrumental in this process, because they came to Dallas twice a month to meet with us in a classroom setting. The online part of the program has been beneficial in that I can shut the rest of the world out while I concentrate on school. I am not distracted by the comings-and-goings of a classroom," Esparza explained.

Her desire to help students learn English is not the only reason she returned to school to get her degree. Esparza cites her two daughters, Cristina and Julissa, as her inspiration for completing her education, even though it is, at times, a challenge.

"I'd forgotten how heavy a backpack with textbooks in it was, but it's been great and I would not trade the experience for the world. I've been very blessed with this opportunity and I am grateful that professional and caring teachers like Dr. Salazar, Dr. Perez, Dr. Allen and Mrs. Nguyen think of future generations," Esparza said.

She also said that her education will not stop at her bachelor's degree. Esparza plans to pursue her master's degree, among her other goals of serving her community, church and family.


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