Spotlight Series: Dr. Amie DeLeon
February 14, 2019
This spring, Palo Alto College's partnership with Junior Achievement (JA), a non-profit organization that helps facilitate a mentorship program at local public schools, is being recognized with the President's Volunteer Service Award (Bronze Level), which recognizes organizations that have contributed substantial volunteer service hours. Dr. Amie DeLeon, faculty lead for the Teacher Education program and JA partnership organizer, is headed to the Junior Achievement USA Annual Volunteer Summit held at the New York Stock Exchange in March to receive the award.
"When we hit the 5,000-hour mark, I was super excited," said DeLeon. Palo Alto College is the only public college in Texas to receive the recognition at any level.
The partnership, now called JA in a Day, entails students taking over entire elementary schools for a full school day and allowing students to complete their state-mandated student teaching hours. With teach JA curriculum for various grade levels, the Palo Alto College students teach elementary students about work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy. The 5,000 service hours have been accumulated over the 12-year partnership with JA.
As more students have enrolled in Palo Alto College's Teacher Education program, JA in a Day has expanded to more elementary schools, so students are completing more and more service hours. This spring, students will complete an additional 3,600 service hours with JA in a Day, putting the program well on its way to fulfilling 10,000 service hours and the silver level presidential recognition.
DeLeon says it's important that the Teacher Education students are serving in the South Side of San Antonio, where she has built JA in a Day partnerships with Edgewood, Harlandale, San Antonio, South San Antonio, and Southwest ISDs. This benefits the elementary students and Palo Alto College students alike; as the program returns to elementary schools each semester, children are remembering the JA curriculum, and the college students are investing in their local community.
"Now that we have gone a couple of cycles of this JA in a Day, the [elementary] students are remembering," said DeLeon. "What's more impactful to me personally is when I go to the schools and [I see] that the teachers were once my students. That's happening more and more often."
Giving back to the community that raised you is important, says DeLeon, who was born and raised in the Pleasanton area and began her college education at Palo Alto College. Her family supported her decision to attend college, but it was her teachers and school peers in different stages of life who pushed her to go to college and earn advanced degrees.
"There was something within me, but it was also that there have been people who have come into my life along the way that have impacted me," said DeLeon. "I had a teacher tell me I was going to go to college. She continued to push me, and I finally said to myself 'I think I can do this.'"
Now with a doctoral degree, DeLeon seeks to empower her students to not only continue their own education, but also be the difference makers in the children and young adults they teach one day.
"I tell my students, 'All the things that I'm teaching you, I want to see you do when you're teaching. I'm not here to judge you, I'm here to guide you and coach you,'" said DeLeon. "Sometimes you have to just learn by doing."
Students graduating from Palo Alto College's Teacher Education program are well-prepared for their next steps, which DeLeon credits to Palo Alto College faculty's mentorship and the hands-on opportunity with JA in a Day. DeLeon serves on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's Field of Study Advisory Committee for Associate of Arts in Teaching (A.A.T.), where she and her colleagues are tasked with determining requirements of lower-division courses that lead to teacher certification. In speaking to her colleagues, Palo Alto College's A.A.T. graduates have advanced knowledge and skills that set them ahead for their educational and career journeys.
"It's gratifying to hear back from the universities stating that our students are coming to them well prepared," DeLeon explained. "Our students, evidently, are getting a really good foundational concept of how to be a good teacher, and that's what we want."