Photo: Julysa Sosa/For The San Antonio Express-News

Junior Achievement initiative expands to Palo Alto College, Harlandale, Edgewood

By Alia Malik, Staff Writer  |  San Antonio Express-News  |  October 31, 2016


Twelve years after Stephanie Villarreal spent the second grade in Ramiro Macias’ class at Bellaire Elementary School, she returned, carrying the same tiny pair of wooden shoes Macias gave all his students that year after his vacation in the Netherlands.

This time, though, Villarreal became the teacher.

She and more than 50 other Palo Alto College students working toward an associate’s degree in teaching take elementary schools by storm on Fridays to give lessons on career readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship created by the international Junior Achievement program. Last week, they were at Bellaire in the Harlandale Independent School District.

It was the third of seven elementary schools Palo Alto students will “take over” this semester as part of a new partnership between the community college, Harlandale and Edgewood ISD. Called “JA in a Day,” the program allows the Palo Alto students to give Junior Achievement lessons all day under the supervision of professional teachers and college faculty.

Spanish was Villarreal’s first language, and she was still learning English when Macias was her teacher. She spoke both languages Friday to Macias’ dual-language third-grade class.

“I have a passion for kids, especially bilingual kids,” Villarreal said. “I would like to help them master both languages, because that’s really important now.”

JA in a Day already existed at Northwest Vista College in partnership with Northside ISD, and at Northeast Lakeview College with Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD, said Bernadette Byrd, director of programs at Junior Achievement of South Texas.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board requires students in certain education classes to earn 16 hours of field work under the supervision of a certified teacher. In the past, Villarreal and other PAC students fulfilled that requirement by teaching the Junior Achievement curriculum for an hour a week. After several months, their supervising teachers would submit written evaluations to Amie De Leon, associate professor of behavioral sciences.

Now De Leon attends the day-long “school takeovers,” walking from class to class and giving the Palo Alto students feedback in real time. The college students work harder, and get a better sense of what teachers go through, when they spend an entire day leading classes.

The program was made possible by Palo Alto’s new schedule limiting classes to four days a week, leaving Fridays free for the school takeovers. Before this semester, teacher education students would sometimes skip classes to do their field work, De Leon said.

At last week’s class, Villarreal and another Palo Alto student, Gloria Romano, taught Macias’ students about different forms of payment. They told the children to imagine shopping with cash, a check, a credit card or a debit card.

“When you have cash, you have money now and you can buy things now,” Villarreal said. “So what do you want to buy with your cash?”

“Chicken,” third-grader Adan Rangel said, drawing laughter all around.

Macias said Villarreal was an excellent student in elementary school, and he remembered her smile.

“I’m really proud that she wants to go into teaching and she’s on her way up,” Macias said.





Photo: Palo Alto College freshman Abigail Macias teaches during a Junior Achievement lesson plan on finances Friday Oct. 28, 2016 during the weekly student teaching by Palo Alto College students at Bellaire Elementary School.

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