Though she only began teaching at Texas Woman’s this fall, Aimee Myers, Ph.D., assistant professor of curriculum and instruction in TWU’s Department of Teacher Education, already feels a strong connection to the university and its students.
The university’s status as a Hispanic Serving Institution and the large nontraditional student population drew her here, she said. Coming from a Hispanic family with strong roots in Texas didn’t hurt either, she added.
“I see so much of myself in (the students),” Myers said. “I was a single mom in college. I’m a first-generation college student. The fact that TWU serves that population in action, not just in words, was huge.”
She hit the ground running.
Myers quickly learned of the department’s New Teacher Academy and, just as quickly, volunteered to help with the 2019 event. She also is a co-sponsor of the department’s ATPE (Association of Teacher Professional Educators) student chapter; served as the department’s torchbearer for the State Employee Charitable Campaign; is participating in the Authentic Assessment Collective sponsored by the Center for Faculty Excellence; and is on the planning committee for the 2019 Student Creative Arts and Research Symposium.
She also is working to establish a New Teacher Clothes Closet on campus, where TWU preservice teachers can get professional clothing for their student teaching internships or new teaching jobs.
Myers also was one of 17 TWU representatives serving as “Principal for a Day” Oct. 9 in the Dallas Independent School District. The program invites community members to spend a day in the schools in hopes of increasing awareness of public schools in the Dallas ISD.
Having worked in Oklahoma City schools for several years, Myers was eager to see how urban schools in Texas were providing opportunities for their students’ futures.
“The public often views inner-city schools in a negative light,” Myers said. “Sadly, these perspectives are built upon stereotypes and misunderstandings.” One such incident stands out in her mind. While picking up her children from a Norman, Oklahoma school, a teacher there, upon learning that Myers worked in an Oklahoma City school, asked if she wore a bulletproof vest in that school.
“Anytime you have an area of town that is low-income or where most residents are people of color, it gets stereotyped,” she added. “The buildings aren’t as nice, and there’s not as much technology, but I have seen some really incredible programs going on, like the programs I saw in Dallas.”
Myers served as guest principal at Martha Turner Reilly Elementary School, which has a predominately Hispanic student population. More than half the students are considered at risk.
Myers cautions against judging a school by its statistics, however.
“Until you’re in there, you don’t see all the amazing things that happen,” she said.
The school has a dual-language program where children are learning to be literate in English and Spanish, she said, adding that the students are helping each other learn. The school’s STAAR test preparation isn’t “teaching to the test,” Myers said. Instead, students learn how to dissect the question itself rather than just trying to choose an answer.
Myers said the experience gave her “those giddy teacher goosebump moments when you watch students thriving and they’re proud of themselves.”
One of her biggest takeaways from serving as Principal for a Day is the great need for teachers to be prepared to teach in an urban classroom, Myers said.
“Teachers who come from different backgrounds than their students may get upset when students come to schools without their supplies,” she said. “What they may not realize is that student may have slept on a couch or in a car last night, but got up and came to school. They wanted to be there.” As a teacher educator, Myers said she wants to “have more in-depth conversations with my students about getting to know the K-12 students in urban schools.”
Reilly Elementary Principal Marion Jackson agreed.
“Dr. Myers shared some valuable insight concerning teachers’ inability to connect with some students, and how our educational system has not prepared young teachers well enough to master this skill,” she said. “It truly is one of the concerns we face in Dallas ISD, as our teachers don’t always mirror our student population.”
Jackson said Myers “was an absolute delight to have on our campus. Her teaching experience allowed her to immediately connect with students and staff. There aren’t too many Principal for a Day participants who can do that.” Most come from businesses, she said, adding, “The opportunity to witness what happens day to day on a campus is an eye-opener for most.”
Jackson said Myers was named “an honorary administrator on our campus and is welcome to stop by anytime.”
Myers may have gained a student in addition to her honorary title, as Jackson added, “I even plan to look into one of her courses!”
Story by Karen Garcia