Hill Country

Grant will help Hill Country districts "grow" their own teachers

MARBLE FALLS, Texas (KXAN) — When a new school year starts at Highland Lakes Elementary in Granite Shoals, Karina Palacio likes to share something with the students in her second grade class. 

"The very first day, I always tell them 'Oh, this was my school, and these were my halls,'" Palacio said. "They kind of light up, like, 'Wow, this was your school. You actually went here.' It's pretty cool."

Now the Marble Falls and Fredericksburg Independent School Districts are trying to get more of their students to follow in Palacio's footstops and return to their respective hometowns to teach. 

According to Palacio:

"There's a sort of investment that comes with you coming back and teaching at your own school. Because these are your people, your family, your community." 

The Marble Falls and Fredericksburg districts recently received a joint Grow Your Own grant worth approximately $161,000 from the Texas Education Agency.

With help from this two-year grant, Marble Falls ISD will add high school classes geared toward students who are aspiring teachers. The grant will also expand the district's involvement in a fast-track teaching program through Texas Tech. 

High schoolers can begin working toward an associate's degree through Central Texas College, then move into the Texas Tech's TechTeach program.

"They'll graduate within three years of graduating high school with a bachelor's degree, a teaching certificate and ready to go," said Dr. Wesley Cunningham, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction at Marble Falls ISD. 

Through this particular program, Marble Falls and Fredericksburg would like to get at least 12 more students to come back and eventually work as teachers for them. 

At Marble Falls ISD, administrators said it especially needs more special education teachers as well as those, like Palacio, who are bilingual. 

"The need for bilingual and ESL teachers here at our district is a high need. We have a high urgency right now," said Soor-el Puga, the director of bilingual and ESL programs. "We have a robust recruiting effort where we travel around the state, south Texas primarily, to try to get teachers to come to our community."

He and Bethany Birdwell note, however, there are advantages to having homegrown talent in the classrooms. 

"They get a great perspective on growing up in the school," said Birdwell, who works as principal at Highland Lakes Elementary. "They have great thoughts on how we can make our school better and add to the culture of our campus." 

Palacio accomplished one dream of teaching when she went to school at Marble Falls ISD, and now she's ready to see another become reality. She's looking forward to the day when one of her former students joins her as a coworker. 

"I want to be here and help it grow," she said. "And that's really exciting to me." 

The Grow Your Own grant will also provide support to paraprofessionals — like teachers' aides — already working at the districts who'd like to earn their teaching certifications. 

Marble Falls and Fredericksburg are just two of 36 applicants that receiving money through Grow Your Own grants. Del Valle and Elgin ISDs were also awarded grants. 



More Hill Country Stories

Trending Video

  • IndyCar comes to Austin for the first time
  • Full-day pre-K could be coming to Texas
  • Georgetown business evacuations decreasing weeks after gas leak
  • Weekend Jam
  • Mother suspects child may be victim of sex crimes
  • La Grange business owner is back in business
  • Women's Hall of Fame: MeToo
  • Two sisters share nearly identical pregnancies
  • Buda begins 'smart' water meter installations
  • Kaxan visits KXAN
  • Headstart employee touched boys inappropriately, deputies say
    Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
  • Police chase ends with driver's death, shuts down I-35 overnight
  • Proposed law would raise criminal age to 18
  • Cleaning the Marie Kondo Way
  • Headstart sub accused of indecency with children
  • 14-year-old saves family from fire
  • Two new low-income developments aim for upgraded housing
  • Interview with George P. Bush
  • Firefighters call for help with
  • Girl, 5, critical after hit-and-run wreck in south Austin
  • Headstart sub touched boys inappropriately, police say
  • Cadbury's newest Bunny is a bulldog
  • Do Beto's bucks matter?
  • Elderly woman found dead in home after house fire near Lago Vista
  • Elderly woman found dead in home after house fire near Lago Vista
  • Child hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after wreck
  • Law enforcement, leaders to reflect on Austin bombings a year later
  • Man takes steer into Petco to test leash policy
  • Disabled Outdoorsmen
  • Man injured in North Campus apartment fire
  • After student deaths, UT, Texas Tech parents back anti-hazing bill
  • KXAN Investigates: Red light cameras — effective? Legal?
  • U.S. Marshals on the hunt in Mexico for man believed to have killed boyfriend
  • Security footage offers clues into suspects of drive-by shooting
  • Austin visitor hit in downtown shooting describes the scene
  • Beloved Texas State cafeteria worker in hospice care
  • Open gov. advocates say bills would strengthen public records access
  • Austin Catholic priest accused of assaulting woman during last rites
  • State lawmakers discuss banning red light cameras
  • Taylor school to become apartment homes
  • Austin priest sexually assaulted woman in hospice
  • Numbers of homeless women on the rise
  • O'Rourke campaign gets early financial boost — will it matter?
  • State of Texas sues, saying city of Double Horn is invalid.
  • State of Texas sues, saying new Burnet County city is invalid
  • State lawmakers discuss banning red light cameras
  • Local bunny a finalist for classic Cadbury commercial update
  • At least half a dozen cars burglarized overnight in Vista Oaks area
  • 4-day blaze extinguished at Houston-area petrochemicals facility
  • Lawmakers push to improve childcare
  • Family searching for dog after loved one killed in Liberty Hill crash
  • State of Texas says city of Double Horn isn't a city
  • Road rage witness becomes a victim
  • Lawmakers argue for prescription drug imports, others say it's dangerous
  • Displaced Georgetown residents growing weeks after gas leak
  • Study says affordable housing affects your health
  • Advocates say prisons are too hot
  • Video shows CapMetro bus hit Central Austin home after collision
  • Man charged in murder of his boyfriend at Onion Creek
  • Video shows CapMetro bus crashing in to Austin home

More Stories

Trending Gallery

PHOTOS: March Madness 2019 First Round
PHOTOS: March Madness 2019 First Round

PHOTOS: March Madness 2019 First Round

Big Tournament /

Trending Stories