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South County cohort of teaching students graduate from Hartnell

SOUTH COUNTY — The joint Teacher Pathway Program at Hartnell College and California State University, Monterey Bay, on May 19 recognized South County students who are graduating from Hartnell and moving on to complete their preparation to become classroom teachers.

The 27 students participating in the celebration at Scheid Vineyards, south of Greenfield, received certificates and graduation stoles to wear at Hartnell’s Commencement on May 24.

In addition to congratulatory remarks from Hartnell Superintendent/President Willard Lewallen and CSUMB President Eduardo Ochoa, they heard a keynote address from Eric Becerra, a former director of the High School Equivalency Program at Hartnell and now a doctoral student at Harvard University.

Using the metaphor of the boots worn in the fields by his hardworking dad, a father of 12, Becerra reminded the students that as teachers they have the power to help end multigenerational poverty through education.

“Because of those boots and the man who wore them,” Becerra said, “I was able to become a first-generation college graduate.”

The students being honored began their teaching studies in fall 2017 and have now completed an Associate Degree for Transfer (AD-T) at Hartnell’s King City Education Center.

They will continue to attend classes in King City for two more years while completing a Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies from CSUMB, which includes student teaching experience in the classroom, followed by a one-year program to complete an Elementary Education Credential.

Lewallen said the Teacher Pathway Program has spurred interest and questions from other California community colleges.

“People look at this and say, ‘How did you get this done?’” he said. “We ask one question: Is it going to be good for students. And if the answer is yes, we find a way to get it done.”

The Teacher Pathway Program was launched in 2016 to address a critical shortage of K-8 teachers in the tri-county region of Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties by providing focused advising and strong peer support that helps students become successful K-8 teachers in a timely manner.

Among them are students like Mayte Lomeli of King City, a 24-year-old mother of two young children. She initially began studying agriculture food safety at Hartnell but then discovered the Teacher Pathway Program and has fallen in love with “the feeling of teaching.”

“This program has made it possible for me to continue my education,” Lomeli said. “It has been very hard juggling my personal life and my school life, but I am doing it.”

Students who joined the Teacher Pathway Program this past fall as the program’s third incoming class, or cohort, are taking courses on Hartnell’s Main Campus in Salinas.

A fourth cohort will begin in Salinas this fall, and then the program will return to the King City Education Center, making it especially accessible for students in south Monterey County, where the teacher shortage is particularly severe, Hartnell officials said.

Ochoa, whose remarks concluded the May 19 ceremony, challenged the future teachers to help students dream and empower them to act.

“We need amazing teachers in our communities who can change our world one child at a time,” he said.