CTN hosted its virtual Ascender Foundational Summer Summit on May 25th and 26th with over 40 participants. It was the first in a series of professional development trainings for new Ascender instructors.

The conference began with a welcome from CTN CEO Dr. Chavez, who talked about CTN’s mission and gave participants an overview of the program as well as any current news or updates. Next Allegra Villarreal, CTN Director of Professional Development, provided an overview of the seminar’s topics to be addressed and led a “get-to-know you” gallery walk.

The topic for the first session titled “A Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Approach,” was presented by Allegra Villarreal. She modeled the methodology of choosing a strong line using a reading from Norma Cantu’s writing and led participants through a writing practice created by Cantu describing a childhood photo or memory. Allegra and Dr. Chavez then modeled for participants the classroom methodology of selecting strong lines and asking two questions in peer readings to identify the strengths and weaknesses in their writing. Mario Morin, CTN Math Professional Development Director and Math Chair at STC, then shared ways to use writing prompts in math and how to “read and speak” math.

The One-Sentence Lesson Plan,” was presented next by Norman Eng, CTN Board Member and Founder of EDUCATIONxDESIGN. Eng took participants through the steps of creating a one sentence lesson plan using the questions “What? How? and Why?” He showed participants how to take the Why? and turn it into the opening hook for their lessons. He emphasized that “students learn content better when it’s anchored to something familiar.”

After lunch, “A Pedagogic Vision for the Future: Validation Theory and Sentipensante,” was presented by Laura Rendon, Professor Emerita, University of Texas – San Antonio. Dr. Rendon spoke to participants about the challenges faced by first-generation students including separation anxiety, microagrgessions, college readiness, affordability, liminality, and advising issues. She discussed the types of assistance first-generational students will often need and stressed the importance of validation, giving examples of how to use it in the classroom. She also discussed her sentipensante (sensing/thinking) pedagogy, ways to use it in designing curriculum, and employing contemplative tools for faculty and staff presentation.

“The Mentoring Component” was presented by Dr. Anna Alaniz, CTN Fellow and Faculty, South Texas College. She began by asking participants to list and write about their mentors. She went over the value of the mentoring component of the CTN Ascender program, a timeline for activities, and the location of forms and other information.

“Recruitment and Advising in the Program,” was presented by Allegra and Ariel Flores, CTN Fellow and Advisor, Austin Community College. Ariel spoke about the importance of recruiting the right students, stressing the importance of the student being willing to participate in the various components of the program, and recruitment strategies including the use of alumni, area high schools, data reports, and using social media and flyers.

The first day ended with campus team time and a daily group reflection.

Day two began with the session “Toward Common Purpose: Teaching Styles and Teamwork” led by Allegra, who took participants through an activity called “The Four Directions.”

The next session titled “Student Engagement: Pandemic Edition” was presented by Alejandra Polcik, CTN Fellow and ACC Manager of Hispanic Outreach Projects and Megan Diaz, ACC Outreach Specialist. They discussed the importance of student engagement and the various events that take place on their campus, including virtual approaches.

The next session “Si Se Puede: Alumni Speak Out (a student panel)” was led by Megan Diaz.  Alumni Griselda Garnica, Andrew Ibarra, Alexia Villagomez, Rocio Lopez and Carmen Hernandez from ACC cohort 2020-2021 shared their experiences, thoughts and feelings with participants.

Then Juan Higa, Operations Manager, and Debra McBeath, Director of Communications and Engagement, gave a brief overview of the student engagement component of the program which includes the student club, transfer motivational conference, charlas and internships.

After lunch, in the session titled “How We Teach Moving Forward” current practitioners in English, Learning Frameworks, Government and Math discussed their teaching approaches both for the program and online delivery. Dr. Alaniz (Learning Frameworks) and Darrial Reynolds (Government) shared how they created the curriculum and lessons for their learning community. Mario Morin (Math) spoke from the perspective of the math chair and discussed technology in the math classroom, the EnLearn program which has more reading and writing involved, how to get students into the right math class, and some suggestions for mathematical thinking in all courses. “The reading, writing and speaking of math is the foundation/cornerstone of our courses,” he added. The next speaker, Yon Hui Bell (English), spoke about her approach to understanding her students and how she wants to make her students feel. She then shared some of her lessons about how to actualize these in her curriculum.

The next session “Research and Evaluation in the Model” was presented by Erin Doran, CTN Director of Research and Evaluation. She shared and explained the data that CTN collects.

The second day also ended with campus team time and group reflection.

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