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July 2, 2021 LA GRANDE, Ore. – The first class to graduate from Oregon’s first future teacher academy received commemorative coats to recognize their achievement on June 25.
The Eastern Oregon Teacher Academy (EOTA), hosted by Eastern Oregon University’s College of Education, is the first program of its kind in the state. High school students considering a degree in teaching and current paraprofessionals that wish to earn a teaching degree were invited to participate in three days of in-person seminars and professional development on EOU’s campus.
“Attendees met with superstars in the teaching profession, talked with faculty members for the College of Education and other colleges at EOU, and interacted with current students in the undergraduate and graduate programs,” said Education Professor Dave Dallas, who designed and led the EOTA. “There were keynote presentations, roundtable discussions, information sessions, icebreakers and team building activities, plus one-on-one time with academy instructors.”
Seven College of Education students mentored the participants while EOU faculty and experienced educators led interactive sessions each day. Becca Riomondo, a senior studying Elementary Education at EOU, was one of the mentors for EOTA.
“My favorite part of EOTA was being able to connect with the participants from different parts of the state. I loved being able to get to know each of them and answer questions about their futures in college or careers in teaching,” Riomondo said. “I hope that the participants felt more educated about what to expect in college and in a teaching career.”
A grant from the Oregon Department of Education covered all participant costs, so the program was free for the 10 prospective educators who attended. Participants could also earn EOU undergraduate credit for attending the academy.
“Due to COVID concerns in May, we were not able to offer the academy experience to all that were interested, but we hope to be able to offer more opportunities next year with more attendees and an expanded offering,” Dallas said.
Attendees underwent COVID-19 testing prior to arrival and stayed in EOU residence halls to minimize potential spread of disease. The gathering followed health and safety guidelines, while allowing participants to engage with one another in-person.
Riomondo said the academy’s goals and outcomes align with the university’s mission as a whole.
“EOU has a huge role in our region because there is a strong demand for teachers,” she said. “Little towns and cities don’t survive without schools, and schools don’t operate without teachers. So EOU producing quality teachers that often fall in love with eastern Oregon is key to keeping this area successful.”
The EOTA was supported by a grant from the Oregon Department of Education based on grant initiative and funding recommendation from the Educator Advancement Council and in partnership with the Eastern Oregon University College of Education and the Wallowa County ESD Region 18.
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