Catch the Next’s Ascender Fall Seminar was held on October 27th and 28th in Austin. The seminar brought together Peer Mentors, educators, advisors, counselors, and CTN Leadership Fellows from across the state to discuss progress and challenges in the program and to share best practices in the classroom. It focused on team building while also addressing the needs of various disciplines through breakout sessions and was responsive to the needs of the current cohort.

On the first day, after a welcome from Anna B. Alaniz, CTN Director of Professional Development and Maria Martha Chavez, CTN Chief Executive Officer, participants heard from Norman Eng, Ed.D., President of EducationXDesigns, Inc., in his session titled “One Sentence Lesson Plan.” Participants learned to quickly and efficiently plan lessons that students care about by answering three most important questions.  Next Frank Savina, Course Program Specialist, Postsecondary Mathematics UT Austin DANA Center, provided an overview of the Aligned Pathway Model in his session titled “Expanding our Equity Lens to Support Students in Aligned Math Pathways.” His presentation included the four dimensions of equity: the traditional dimensions of access and achievement along with the critical dimensions of power and identity.

This was followed by Eng’s presentation “Distill your Slides.” Participants learned to focus on depth, not breadth, when creating classroom presentations and to focus on one or two complex ideas.

After lunch, Dr. Keylan Morgan, Assistant Director, Division for College Readiness and Success from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, shared updates regarding the TSI as well other higher education news. Next Dr. Alaniz discussed Sergio Troncoso’s novel Nobody’s Pilgrim and the search for the American Dream. Yvette Regalado, CTN Intern who is working toward completing her doctoral degree at Texas State University, presented her session titled “[Re]authoring Your Story with Counter-narratives.”  Participants engaged in a counter-narrative writing workshop and learned how to use this tool to help empower students through critical consciousness writing.

The afternoon was filled with breakout sessions. Math instructors joined Savina for “Mathematics in the Ascender Framework.” English instructors joined CTN Leadership Fellow and SAC Instructor, Yon Hui Bell, for a discussion on using novels and literary fiction and nonfiction to engage students. The Learning Frameworks session was led by CTN Leadership Fellow and ACC Instructor, Samantha Ackers, who took participants through an activity that identified spirit crushers. In the Advising session led by CTN Leadership Fellow and ACC advisor, Vidal Almanza, participants discussed student retention as a team effort.

The day ended with participants writing reflections which were shared and discussed the following day.

The first session of the second day titled “Mentor Component Logistics” was presented by Dr. Alaniz. Participants discussed how to recruit mentors, how to train them, the best ways to match mentors with students, and protocols between students and mentors.

The next session was “How Did You Come to Education “Coaching for Excellence and Equity” presented by Allegra Villarreal, CTN Consultant.  Participants discussed equity related issues, aspects of identity, universal values and personal strengths.

For the rest of the morning, participants gathered in breakout rooms by campus to talk about concerns, questions, and resources available on their campuses. Towards the end of lunch, Dr. Chavez handed out leadership plaques to CTN staff.

In the first session after lunch, participants discussed coaching styles and strengths in Villarreal’s session “Coaching for Excellence and Equity.” Participants learned that “coaching is the process of unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance.” They also learned techniques of coaching such as ways to listen and paraphrase. Next participants took part in a team building exercise led by Dr. Alaniz to show that working as a team leads to success.

The last session of the day focused on student engagement. Participants discussed any issues they are facing in implementing the Ascender activities such as Noche de Familia, University Tours, Ascender Club, survey administration, and other staple activities to create a sense of belonging and engagement. Facilitators for this session were Debra McBeath, Juan Higa, Maria Chavez, and Anna Alaniz. 

The day ended with an Ofrenda Sharing where participants shared one piece of their writing from the two-day presentation as an ofrenda to the rest of the group. 

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