It took more than a decade of determined effort before Carla Schriver could finally “close a chapter in my life” and, with timely advice from two TCC faculty members, open a new one as a teacher in the Fort Worth ISD. Schriver is one of a growing number of students to use TCC as a springboard to a teaching career.
A high school dropout, Schriver was 30 when she earned her GED (General Educational Development) and began classes at TCC Northwest. She wanted a degree, “something that would set an example for my kids,” but didn’t know in what discipline. She thought about nursing, but her first anatomy and physiology class convinced her otherwise.
Fortunately, she was taking the Student Transition to College Success class under Brent Alford. “One day we were talking about careers, and he said, ‘You may not know what you want to do, but I want you to think of something you actually enjoy and would do for free,’” she said. “I used to teach kids at Sunday School, so I thought that wouldn’t be so bad.”
She enrolled in the teacher education program at TCC Northeast, but her plan was to pursue the Associate of Arts in Teaching (AAT) degree and be “finished” with a two-year degree. That, however, was before she took a class under Rosa Mendez, who told her about the two-plus-one agreement with Texas Tech University.
Under this partnership, students can attend TCC for two years and then be enrolled online at Texas Tech online for one year to earn a bachelor’s degree in bilingual education, all while not having to leave home to do their practice teaching.
“I think that if I’d never taken that class with Dr. Mendez, I probably wouldn’t have found out about Texas Tech and wouldn’t have become a teacher,” Schriver said. Texas Tech even allowed her to do her practice teaching at Hubbard Heights Elementary, where she was already working as a teacher’s assistant.
It was for students like Schriver that TCC’s Teacher Education Program was launched in 2004. There were already education programs aplenty at area universities, but not one with the same degree of affordability and proximity. “A lot of our students have children,” Mendez said, “and so they have to be flexible enough to pick up their children in a timely manner rather than driving from Arlington or Denton.
The program began on what was almost an experimental basis with only 30 students. Mendez, herself a TCC alumna, was the sole faculty member, and she had been hired only on a full-time temporary basis. It was located on TCC Northwest, but grew so rapidly that an expansion to to TCC South in 2009 was necessary. By 2021, enrollment was 350.
Several factors fueled the increase, said Shereah Taylor, program coordinator at TCC South. “We got a boom in 2012–2013 from students who were returning to the workforce,” she said. “They had been stay-at-home parents and were looking for something that would afford them the flexibility to follow their child’s schedule.”
Veterans were a big part of the new student pool, as were people looking for a career change during the Great Recession. “I remember my second or third year having seven male students, which was unheard of,” Taylor said.
The agreement with Texas Tech sparked an uptick. “Faster is always better,” Taylor said. “People called us and were saying, ‘You mean I can do two years and TCC and then one year at Texas Tech and I’m done?’ People see TCC and our AAT program as really a launching point.”
But Texas Tech is only one of several partners to which students transfer. TCC has agreements with 11 universities as near as TCU and UTA and as distant as Stephen F. Austin and Texas A&M-Commerce. “It’s become a very smooth transition, especially over the last three or four years,” Mendez said. “That wasn’t always so, but Shereah and I have been working very closely in reaching out to the education deans at the universities, sitting down with them.”
Perhaps the most eloquent advocates for university acceptance of TCC’s Teacher Education Program have been the students themselves. “I think that word of mouth has gotten around to the universities as to how our students will excel once they get to them,” Taylor said. “Our students are ready. They’re prepared for the challenge.”
The student population is diverse. Some are just out of high school. Indeed, some are still students at one of TCC’s early college high schools. Others are older, perhaps parents whose last child is now in kindergarten or others working as teacher aides who look around them and think, “I can do this.” They are overwhelmingly still female.
Awaiting them are three AAT options depending on whether the student wants to teach through sixth grade, through 12th grade or through 12th grade in special education. Each degree requires a subject matter specialization, and choices range from math to music.
Though popular wisdom holds that teachers are in it for the outcomes, not the income, many students are attracted by the salary levels. Taylor points to one such student who entered the program as a dual credit student who came to TCC with 30 semester hours, finished her degree in a year and did the one-year Texas Tech program; at age 19, she began as a bilingual elementary school teacher with a salary around $60,000. “Not only was she the first in her family to attend college,” Taylor said, “but she had the opportunity to totally change the economic trajectory of her household. She told me, ‘My dad didn’t have to work three or four jobs, and my mom didn’t have to clean as many houses.’”
And yet, diverse as they are, TCC’s Teacher Education students share a common desire. “They have a passion to teach others,” Mendez said. “They have a passion to make a difference in the community. There was that one teacher along the way who make a significant impact on them.
For Carla Schriver, that teacher was Mendez. “She’s the reason I became a teacher,” she said. “I just instantly clicked with her because she’s wonderful. I’m very big on encouraging my fifth-graders on higher education. I’m glad to do anything that might help somebody who’s like me when I was there.”
Find more information about TCC's Teacher Education program.