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Montgomery College Student Voted “Rookie Teacher of the Year” at Area Elementary School


Lone Star College–Montgomery student Ruben Garza was recently named, "Rookie Teacher of the Year" at Anderson Elmentary in Spring ISD. Garza just completed the college's increasingly-popular teacher cerification program, which is currently enrolling students for the upcoming fall training cycle.

Montgomery College student Ruben Garza has made a big impression on the students and teachers of Anderson Elementary.

Just a year ago, Garza was a bilingual teacher’s aide on the Spring Independent School District campus, and just this April, Anderson Elementary mentor teachers and administrative staff honored him with their Rookie Teacher of the Year Award.

The journey from apprentice to pro was a short one for Garza, thanks in part to the Montgomery College alternative teacher certification (ATC) program.

Garza, who has a computer systems engineering degree from the Center for University Studies in Monterrey, Mexico, said he didn’t realize he wanted to teach until after he had already graduated from college.

“After college I came to Texas to visit my mother who has a business here, and I decided that I wanted to be a teacher,” said Garza, who then enrolled in the Montgomery College ATC program. “I knew that it was an abbreviated program, but I had no idea that in just a few months I would actually be teaching in an internship and getting paid as a teacher. It has been an incredible opportunity for me.”

Garza finished his internship this month and has been hired as a full-time bilingual second grade teacher for the fall, said principal Kathy Morrison.

“We really hit a homerun with Ruben. His personality is contagious and he is very enthusiastic--so consequently his students share that enthusiasm,” said Morrison. “What’s wonderful is the students he has now during his teaching internship are those that he worked with as an aide last year, so he had developed bonds and a good relationship with them. Now he will have that foundation to continue to build upon with his future students.”

“I think that second grade is so much fun to teach” Garza said. “My students and I have a great time in the classroom and we work hard together to make learning fun. I am really moved by the fact that I am helping these students build their future.”

That mentality doesn’t stop with Garza’s students. As the biggest cheerleader for the Montgomery College ATC program, Garza has been doing some “unofficial” recruiting for the college during his time off.

“My wife is now in the program working toward becoming a bilingual teacher, as well,” he said. “And my sister who is a teacher in California is thinking about moving to Texas. I told her if she does, she must come to Montgomery College to get the certification she needs here.”

The Montgomery College ATC program offers a non-traditional route to becoming a professional teacher through the Texas State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) in 12 highly sought after areas of teaching including all levels of bilingual, math, various sciences, and foreign languages, said Christie Smith, program coordinator and professor of education.

The program, which is a training program for individuals who already have a bachelor's degree or higher, began in 2004 and was “tailor made to fit the hiring needs of area school districts,” said Smith.

“We keep a pulse on needed areas through an advisory committee comprised of college faculty members and representatives from the Spring, Conroe, Magnolia, Montgomery and Willis Independent School Districts.”

Kathy Clark, Conroe ISD director of communications, said the school district receives a great return on its investment in the program.

“Conroe ISD recognizes that the need for bilingual teachers will continue to grow and values its partnership with Montgomery College to help fulfill this need,” she said. “The bilingual alternative certification program at Montgomery College is of great benefit to Conroe ISD as it gives the district a top priority in interviewing and hiring trained candidates,” said Clark. “Together, Conroe ISD and Montgomery College are ‘planting seeds’ for the future.”  

The ATC program takes between 18 to 24 months to complete, including the year-long paid teaching internship within a participating school district, said Smith. The Montgomery College program is currently seeking approval for a student teaching option for those who would like to ease into the teaching role and who don’t need the paying job that the internship offers, said Smith.

“The student teaching option offers alternative certification in a lesser amount of time and also provides the student the support of working under a supervising teacher, which the internship does not provide. As interns they have their own class,” said Smith. “We are really hopeful that soon we will be able to provide both options because there are benefits to both.”

The Montgomery College ATC program conducts three training cycles each year--fall, spring and summer. Applications are accepted year-round with training beginning shortly after the deadline. Training for the June 30 application deadline will begin in August; training for the October 31 deadline will begin in January 2008.

Montgomery College hosts ATC information sessions regularly throughout the year with the next two being held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 21, and Thursday, July 19, in Building A, Room 102. The presentation will cover admissions criteria, tuition, training, testing, and the internship.
More information on the Lone Star College–Montgomery ATC program can be found at http://montgomery.lonestar.edu/tcp.

Montgomery College is located at 3200 College Park Drive, one-half mile west of Interstate 45, between Conroe and The Woodlands. For more information about the college, call (936) 273-7000 or visit http://montgomery.lonestar.edu/.

NHMCCD, among the five largest and fastest growing community colleges in Texas, comprise, Cy-Fair College, Kingwood College, Montgomery College, North Harris College, Tomball College, six satellite centers, and The University Center.