|Ruth Cañas Earns Prestigious Student Teaching Award|
University of St. Thomas bilingual education major Ruth Cañas likens student teaching to a classroom boot camp — a challenging, but rewarding experience where she trained to lead troops of Mark Twain Elementary School second-grade students to success.
Cañas earned her student teaching stripes when she was honored with the 2009 UST School of Education Preservice Educator of the Year Award. The award is provided through education deans of Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas of which UST is a member. Each of the universities gives one award each year to the outstanding undergraduate preservice teacher.
“Ruth was the unanimous choice of the faculty from the outstanding students considered,” said Robert LeBlanc, dean of the School of Education. “She is extremely capable and conscientious in all aspects of her work in teacher preparation.”
Cañas, a senior graduating in May 2009, is no stranger to the School of Education spotlight. In 2007, she was chosen as the recipient of the Ellen and Scipio de Kanter Dual-Language Scholarship. She was also one of 25 college juniors from 17 participating institutions to be named as a recipient of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund Fellowship for Aspiring Teachers of Color. Each fellow receives up to $22,100 over a five-year period that begins this summer and ends after completion of three years of public school teaching.
After earning an associate’s degree in graphic design and working as a graphic artist for six years, Cañas enrolled at UST to embark on a more meaningful career as a teacher. Cañas will use the Rockerfeller fellowship money to pursue a master’s degree in education administration at UST.
“I enjoyed being a graphic artist, but at the end of the day, I knew that it wouldn’t really make a difference in somebody’s life if the hamburger looked just right in the advertisement I designed,” she said. “The graphic design work I was doing was not going to have the kind of positive impact I know I can make by being a teacher.”
Moving to the United States from El Salvador in the early 1980s, Cañas, grew up in a bilingual home. Still, she says, her “default language” is English.
“Teaching in a dual language class has been mutually beneficial,” she said. “The students are learning from me, but they are helping me improve my Spanish as well. The dual language program is incredible, and I have seen its benefits already. The students who are learning a second language are performing better on tests and they have a better understanding of other cultures, which is so essential in this globalized society.”
Cañas’ previous college experiences at large state universities and community colleges gave her a deeper appreciation for the level of instruction and personal attention she received at the University of St. Thomas. Her School of Education professors, she said, have served as exemplary models which inspire her own teaching approach.
“Everybody raves about the professors and the personal attention at UST, and it’s true. Going to UST was like eating at a four-star restaurant with premium service. My other college experiences were more like going through the fast food drive through that left a bad taste in my mouth,” she said “I hope to mirror the quality teaching I received at UST and emulate my professors teaching style in my own classroom.”
For more information about the University of St. Thomas School of Education, visit www.stthom.edu/education.