The League for Innovation in the Community College has named the San Diego Mesa College Teacher Education Pathways Program a winner of its 2019-2020 Innovation of the Year Award.

The college, part of the San Diego Community College District, earned the recognition because of the program’s focus on diversity. It also offers free tutoring, smaller classes, stipends and a direct path to earning a bachelor’s degree.

With a shortage of bilingual Spanish/English, male and STEM teachers in California elementary and middle schools and across the nation, Mesa launched the program, creating a pathway for aspiring teachers from diverse backgrounds, to gain the skills needed for employment in K-12 schools in San Diego.

The goal is to close diversity and gender gaps for many students who lack the benefits of having a culturally responsive education taught by teachers who are representative of the students.

“We want to teachers to the classroom who come from the community and who mirror the community,” said Isabel O’Connor, vice president of instruction.

The comprehensive two-year curriculum provides opportunities for student success and educational equity by offering two pathways: (1) the DEBER Scholars Program and (2) the STEM Teacher Education Program. Mesa is currently accepting student for the fall semester, which begins Aug. 17.

Through the DEBER Scholars Program, bilingual Spanish/English Latinx students are prepared to teach in school districts throughout San Diego County. In Spanish, deber is a “duty”; it means a responsibility and desire to serve one’s community. These students are encouraged to transfer into San Diego State University’s bilingual credential program, through a partnership with SDSU and their Teacher Education School.

The STEM Teacher Education Program provides a pathway for Mesa students to become STEM middle school and high school teachers, and likewise, builds on their success by offering support and transfer partnerships to four-year institutions, including San Diego State University and National University, to complete low- to no-cost degrees.

— Staff report