Waco ISD-Baylor School of Education Partnership Wins National Award

  • Full-Size Image: Baylor SOE NAPDS Award Kelcey Morrow
    Kelcey Morrow, senior elementary education major, at Parkdale Elementary in Waco ISD. (Meg Cullar/Baylor School of Education)
  • Full-Size Image: SOE WISD PDS Leadership
    (L to R) Baylor School of Education Interim Dean Terrill Saxon, Ph.D.; Baylor School of Education Director of the Office of Professional Practice Krystal Goree, Ph.D.; Waco ISD Superintendent Marcus Nelson, Ed.D.; and Waco ISD Assistant Superintendent for School Improvement and District PDS Liaison Yolanda Williams, at a recent Waco ISD board meeting. (Meg Cullar/Baylor School of Education)
  • Full-Size Image: Baylor SOE NAPDS Award Bianca Ochoa Sara Sommerfeldt
    Mentor teacher Bianca Ochoa, M.S.Ed. '93, Ph.D. '13, with Sara Sommerfeldt, a junior elementary education major, at Hillcrest PDS in Waco ISD. (Matthew Minard/Baylor University)
  • Full-Size Image: Baylor SOE NAPDS Award Anam Bhamani
    Anam Bhamani, a senior mid grades English/Language Arts/Reading major, at Cesar Chavez Middle School in Waco ISD. (Matthew Minard/Baylor University)
  • Full-Size Image: Baylor SOE NAPDS Award Addie Tamlyn
    Addie Tamlyn, a junior elementary education major, at Mountain View Elementary in Waco ISD. (Matthew Minard/Baylor University)
  • Full-Size Image: Baylor SOE NAPDS Award Madison Lane
    Madison Lane, junior elementary education major, at Bell's Hill Elementary in Waco ISD. (Meg Cullar/Baylor School of Education)
  • Full-Size Image: Baylor SOE NAPDS Award Riley Lohr
    Riley Lohr, senior secondary social studies major, at University High School in Waco ISD. (Meg Cullar/Baylor School of Education)
  • Full-Size Image: Baylor SOE NAPDS Award Coordinating Council
    Members of the Baylor School of Education and Waco ISD PDS Coordinating Council, which is made up of representatives of Waco ISD and Baylor SOE, as well as the principals, university liaisons and site coordinators from each school. (Meg Cullar/Baylor School of Education)
March 15, 2018

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WACO, Texas (March 15, 2018) – For the second year in a row, the Baylor University School of Education has won a prestigious national honor in recognition of its Professional Development School (PDS) partnership with local schools.

The partnership between Baylor School of Education and Waco Independent School District to prepare future teachers has earned the Exemplary Professional Development School Achievement Award from the National Association for Professional Development Schools (NAPDS). The award will be presented March 17 to Baylor School of Education and Waco ISD, plus three other university-public school partnerships, at the NAPDS annual conference in Jacksonville, Florida.

The NAPDS award is given to a small number of school-university partnerships each year whose work creates and sustains genuine collaborative relationships between pre K-12 schools and higher education and prepares the next generation of teachers with valuable classroom experience. NAPDS cited the Baylor-Waco ISD partnership “for its mutually beneficial 25-year collaboration and its leadership in PDS work nationally.”

“The NAPDS award demonstrates the high value we place on the partnership between the School of Education and Waco ISD partner schools,” said Terrill Saxon, Ph.D., interim dean of the Baylor School of Education. “We believe everyone involved benefits – the children, our pre-service teachers, Waco ISD mentor teachers and other administrators. The ultimate goal is to positively affect children’s learning in the classroom by providing future teachers with the best preparation. This partnership is a fundamental part of that preparation.”

Baylor’s Professional Development School (PDS) program was launched 25 years ago in Waco ISD with a collaboration at Hillcrest PDS. Baylor now has six PDS campuses within Waco ISD at the elementary (Bell's Hill Elementary, Hillcrest PDS, Mountainview Elementary and Parkdale Elementary), middle school (Cesar Chavez Middle School) and high school (University High School) levels.

“We’re pleased that the partnership between Waco ISD and Baylor University has been recognized for its role in training the next generation of classroom teachers,” said Waco ISD Superintendent Marcus Nelson, Ed.D. “Both the teachers being trained through the partnership and the students that they teach are transformed by their experiences at our PDS campuses. I suspect that more than a few of our students have been inspired to become teachers by the role models they met through the partnership, and I know that some of our best teachers started out their careers at one of our PDS campuses.”

Baylor is the only university teacher preparation program to win this award back-to-back from NAPDS. Last year’s Exemplary Achievement Award recognized Baylor’s partnership with Midway ISD.

What is a PDS?

Professional Development Schools are innovative institutions formed through partnerships between university professional education programs and pre K-12 schools. Their mission includes professional preparation of teacher candidates, school and faculty development, inquiry directed at the improvement of practice and enhanced student learning. Baylor students (teacher education candidates) work with mentor teachers and clinical instructors in the classroom to enhance the preparation of new teachers and improve education for children.

Through the PDS partnerships, a university liaison, who is a Baylor School of Education faculty member, and a jointly employed site coordinator work with Baylor students on site, collaborating with the school principal, school faculty and Baylor faculty. Each Baylor student is in the classroom of a trained and experienced mentor teacher or clinical instructor, and each Baylor student receives academic evaluation and feedback from a Baylor-employed intern supervisor.

The collaboration operates on a cost-sharing basis and is managed through a jointly operated Oversight Council, a jointly operated Coordinating Council and PDS campus steering committees that are unique to each campus. Waco ISD provides designated PDS classrooms at each campus so that Baylor faculty and students can meet for instruction, as well as study, research, plan, prepare and process their learning adventures as they work with students during their field and clinical experiences.

Why a clinical approach to teacher preparation?

Baylor teacher candidates begin their field work in area schools during their freshman year and spend significant and progressively more time on school campuses. During the junior year, teacher candidates serve in two PDS schools — one each semester — teaching each day as teaching associates.

As seniors, Baylor teacher candidates are in schools full-time on a daily basis to observe, assist, practice, co-teach and full-class teach. This clinical approach prepares teachers with almost two full years of experience in classrooms — in a co-teach situation with the classroom mentor — before graduation and job placement.

Mentor teachers and clinical instructors, who are experienced classroom teachers, benefit from teacher candidates in the classroom and learn new teaching techniques and technology from their interns and teaching associates. Students in the district benefit from all parts of the partnerships — having more time one-on-one with instructors, experiencing different teaching styles and learning from new and creative lessons.

The Waco ISD-Baylor partnership also includes multiple summer content academies for teachers, campus-specific STEM training, co-teach training and research-based state mentor training called Texas Beginning Educator Support System (TxBESS). The partnership offers yearly opportunities to attend and present at the NAPDS conference and participate in professional development at Baylor conferences in content areas, including reading, mathematics, social studies, science, gifted/talented and special education.

Key individuals in the Baylor-Waco ISD partnership include:

Waco ISD Superintendent Marcus Nelson, Ed.D.
Waco ISD Assistant Superintendent for School Improvement and District PDS Liaison Yolanda Williams
Baylor School of Education Interim Dean Terrill Saxon, Ph.D.
Baylor University Interim Provost Michael McLendon, Ph.D.
Baylor School of Education Director of the Office of Professional Practice Krystal Goree, Ph.D.

University High School
Principal Ricky Edison, Ed.D.
Baylor University Liaison Sandra Talbert, Ed.D. / Robin Wilson
PDS Site Coordinator Belinda Rubio

Cesar Chavez Middle School
Principal Suzanne Hamilton
Baylor University Liaison Sara Barrett
PDS Site Coordinator Dora Almaguer

Bell’s Hill PDS
Principal Rebekah Mechell
Baylor University Liaison Rick Strot
PDS Site Coordinator Victoria Ward

Hillcrest PDS
Principal Amy Matthews Perez, Ed.D.
Baylor University Liaison and PDS Site Coordinator David Gilbreath

Mountainview Elementary
Principal Melissa Pritchard
Baylor University Liaison Emilee Ashenfelter
PDS Site Coordinator Sue Miller

Parkdale Elementary
Principal Marsha Henry
Baylor University Liaison Darlene Bolfing
PDS Site Coordinator Donna Martinez


The National Association of Professional Development Schools (NAPDS), chartered as an official organization in 2005, serves as an advocate for the educational community that is dedicated to promoting the continuous development of collaborative school/higher education/community relationships and to creating and sustaining genuine collaborative partnerships between pre K-12 and higher education.

NAPDS membership includes both higher-education faculty and pre K-12 educators, with leadership elected from both groups. Doug Rogers, Ed.D., associate professor in the Baylor School of Education, is currently president of the organization, after being elected nationwide by the membership.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.


Founded in 1919, Baylor School of Education ranks among the nation’s top 20 education schools located at private universities. The School’s research portfolio complements its long-standing commitment to excellence in teaching and student mentoring. Baylor’s undergraduate program in teacher education has earned national distinction for innovative partnerships with local schools that provide future teachers deep clinical preparation, while graduate programs culminating in both the Ed.D. and Ph.D. prepare outstanding leaders, teachers and clinicians through an intentional blend of theory and practice.


The Waco Independent School District educates 15,000 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade at 26 campuses. Through innovative dual-credit and career and technical education programs, Waco ISD’s graduates are prepared to succeed. In 2016, voters approved additional funding that is being used to pay Waco ISD’s high school students to take dual-credit classes at McLennan Community College. After removing the barrier of tuition costs, Waco ISD now has more students taking dual-credit classes through MCC than any other school district. In addition, Waco ISD’s ACCELERATE program allows students to earn both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree at the same time. The Greater Waco Advanced Manufacturing Academy and the Greater Waco Advanced Health Care Academy are a unique and innovative collaboration between the local business community and Waco ISD. Serving students from 14 area high schools, the academies aim to create a challenging learning environment that encourages high expectations for student success with a goal of producing competitive and workforce-ready students.

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