Green Forest woman receives Arkansas Teaching Corps fellowship

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Arkansas Teacher Corps, a program of the College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas, completed Summer Institute teacher training with its sixth group of fellowship recipients on July 14 at a celebration in Jonesboro.

Jazmin Berlanga Medina of Green Forest was announced as one of the recipients. Berlanga Medina has a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from the University of Arkanss, majoring in physics and French with a mathematics minor.

The 22 Arkansas Teacher Corps Fellows recently finished seven weeks of intensive training in Jonesboro and Osceola, Arkansas, and will enter classrooms this August to serve as educators in high-need schools in south, central and northeast Arkansas.

These new teachers will receive ongoing coaching and development throughout the school year for the entirety of their three-year teaching commitment to ATC and to their school. Each Fellow will receive a $15,000 stipend, paid over three years, in addition to their teaching salary from the school district that hires them.

Faculty member Gary Ritter and former Dean Tom Smith developed the program in 2012 to address teacher shortages in economically disadvantaged areas across Arkansas.

“The University of Arkansas is a land-grant institution so our mission is to serve the entire state,” Ritter said. “Our college has an obligation to train teachers to serve the schools in areas with the greatest need. ATC was built for this purpose.”

Each year since 2013, the program has received about 200 requests for teachers from school leaders in high-need districts facing teacher shortages, particularly in high schools and in math and science. At the same time, ATC staff have sorted through applications from about 150 prospective teachers each year. After a thorough interview process, which includes a teaching demonstration, ATC staff award the Fellowships to roughly 25 teachers each year and train them during Summer Institute. After completing summer training, which includes student teaching in a rural Arkansas school, ATC Fellows begin work in their schools and districts.

Executive Director Shelley Aschliman praised the program’s newest class of Fellows.

“Our teachers reflect the fact that this state has many accomplished and qualified people who are passionate about education, but have not pursued a traditional pathway into the field,” she said.

Nearly half of the Fellows in the new cohort are people of color, Aschliman said.

“I am proud of the efforts that ATC has made to reflect the diversity of people of Arkansas,” she said. “In a state where fewer than 15 percent of educators are teachers of color, it matters that students encounter diverse role models as teachers and leaders in their communities.” 

This year’s Fellows will teach courses ranging from business, Spanish and theater to English and physics courses in Arkansas’ high-need districts. This year, the program has emphasized recruitment among STEM candidates, and it will place one-third of its newest class in science or math classes. 

In August of 2018, the fellows will begin their three-year commitment to students in Arkansas.

Arkansas Teacher Corps has the support of the Arkansas Department of Education and collaborates with school districts and community organizations. Funding for the program has been made available through collaboration between the College of Education and Health Professions, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. The program is also supported by individual donors through the Arkansas Teacher Corps Society.

Applications for the 2019 cohort open in August; college seniors and degree holders of all ages and backgrounds are welcome to apply. Information is available at on the program website.

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