CTN hosted its Ascender Foundational Professional Development Seminar in Dallas on May 23rd to 27th. It was the first in a series of professional development trainings for new Ascender instructors. The conference began with a gallery walk where participants had an opportunity to learn about their shared experiences, followed by a parking lot to set the norms and expectations for the seminar. Next CTN CEO Dr. Chavez and Anna B. Alaniz, CTN Director of Professional Development, talked about CTN’s mission and any current news or updates.  

Dr. Alaniz led the session titled “Getting Acquainted: The Building Block to Strong Relationships” in which participants were able to see writing as a process and not a product, and also get to know each other. The last session of the day was presented by Erin Doran, CTN Director of Research and Evaluation, and was titled “Culturally Relevant Pedagogy.” Each day of the conference ended with participants writing reflections.

The first half of day two focused on “Building Students’ Academic and Cultural Capital.” Session topics included “Intentional Recruitment: Building a Strong Cohort presented by Vidal Almanza, ACC Master Advisor; “Fostering Student Success: Working with Validation, Student Assets and Sentipensante Pedagogy” presented by Dr. Laura Rendon, Professor Emeritus, University of Texas San Antonio; “Cariño: Behaviors with Quantifiable Outcomes,” presented by Jon Herrin, English instructor for South Texas College; and a reading/writing presentation titled “A Photo, Memory, Borderlands” led by Norma Cantu, professor emerita of English and U.S. Latina/o Literatures at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

The second half of the day included sessions titled “Making Math Relevant” presented by Mario Morin, CTN’s Professional Development Math Coordinator, and Jonathan Bell, math instructor at South Texas College; a presentation titled “Building a Talent Strong Texas” by Tina Jackson, Assistant Commissioner of the Division for Workforce Education for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and “Engagement by Design: Making Every Lesson Count led by Dr. Alaniz. The day ended with campus teams discussing structure and roles.

Day three focused on “Creating an Active and Engaged Cohort” and began with a presentation by Dr. Alaniz titled “Defining Culturally Relevant.” Next participants learned to use a jigsaw for culturally relevant readings. Then attendees listened to Ascender alumni, Juan Higa and Farah Guerrero, speak about their experiences in the Ascender program. After lunch, there were breakout sessions for the various disciplines, advisors and administrators. English instructors met with Dr. Norma Cantu for a session titled “Close Reading Interpretive Tool: Teaching Students How to Approach Literature.” Math instructors met with Mario Morin and Jonathan Bell in a session titled “Mathematics at Its Best.”  “Best Practices for Advising and Counseling” was led by Vidal Almanza. Learning Frameworks instructors attended a session led by Anna Alaniz and Diane Lerma.

Following these, Rogelio Saenz, CTN Board Chair, presented a session titled “2020 Census: The Impact on Education.” The next session “Bringing the Community to Campus: Organizing a Family Night was led by Dr. Alaniz and Debra McBeath, CTN Director of Communications and Engagement. This was followed by a team building activity led by Dr. Alaniz and Dr. Chavez in which participants were asked to keep balloons representing the various aspects of their lives in the air.

Day four’s focus was on “Widening the Community.” Participants listened to presentations about mentorship in the Ascender program and mentee training led by Megan Diaz, ACC Outreach Specialist and Diane Lerma. Participants also learned about approaches to student engagement and CTN resources. Dr. Richard Armenta, CTN Campus Liaison Consultant presentation was titled “”Essential Ingredients for Building ‘Familia.’ ” and Dr. Alaniz presented on ways to create familias within the classroom. Participants then formed groups of the three different disciplines and created lesson plans to use in the future  

The final day’s focus was on “Envisioning the Year Ahead.” Attendees learned about building program advocacy as well as CTN’s research and evaluation, and then practiced giving an elevator pitch for the program. The day ended with a narrative share, offrenda, and an awarding of certificates before adjourning.

Reflections from Seminar Participants

“I am learning so much from the presentations and the valuable information that is being shared with us. Everyone is sharing comments, opinions, and strategies on how to make connecting with students more effective.”-R.R.

I really enjoyed Jon’s presentation on Engaging Behaviors. It kind of tied back into the previous session about knowing folk’s names, but even more so, when we offer our stories, it opens students up. They know the instructor is human, flawed gifted, and experienced. Then students are more prone to opening up…Open dialogue that highlights the humanity in all of us is so powerful in the classroom.”-B.E.

“I am elated that our college is going to embrace this way of supporting our student population…I know it will take passionate genuine people to begin this success…I would have loved this kind of support for my culture in the past.” -L.P.

“Dr. Armenta models carino so well in everything he does! I loved how he presented the ideas, shared and modeled carino, and got us thinking about how we can do this in class.”-M.A.

“Spending time with this wonderful group of people has been lovely. I’ve truly enjoyed getting to know the folks at my table and have been inspired by the passion and commitment exhibited by the CTN folks.”-B.H.

My experience today has been great. I really enjoyed the administrator’s breakout session. It was helpful to learn about scalability and programs that brought about positive outcomes for students.”-T.W.

“I feel excited about helping see this program succeed at Dallas College. Dr. Rendon’s presentation set the tone, though. I was truly inspired by her words this morning and found myself thinking about so much of what she said. The idea of micro-affirmations was a highlight that I will put into action immediately…Additionally Drs. Herrin and Cano offered valuable insights that continue to excite and prepare me.”-K.W.

“Today was a great day!…I learned that I need to be more strategic in my lesson planning so that I reach more of my students. Starting with an objective and ending with closure will ensure that I have attempted to cater to their learning experience.” -P.J.

“I’d like to start off with my appreciation for the positive energy and collective efforts presented during our workshop. I really appreciated the breakdown of the importance of census data and the break-out rooms within our specialty area. I also enjoyed the balloon exercercise”-A.C.

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