CWU News

Renton area students learn about teaching and college life at CWU

Eric Hougan, CWU education professor; and Kellie Dunne, junior, Hazen High School, learn virtual reality at CWUA group of nearly two-dozen high school students enrolled at the Renton Teacher Academy (RTA) are visiting CWU this week to get a taste of life on a university campus.

The students, who came from Hazen, Lindberg, and Renton high schools, are all interested in becoming teachers. RTA is designed to recruit and support students, particularly students of color, to consider careers as teachers in high demand areas such as science, technology, mathematics, English as a Second Language, and special education.

“This gives the students an opportunity to, perhaps for the first time, walk on a college campus and learn what would be like to take classes, eat meals, and live the college life for 24 hours,” explained Carla Smith, an Academy teacher coordinator within three Renton School District high schools.

“They most likely have been hearing about going to college since sixth or seventh grade. But not very many of them have had a chance to visit a university,” she added. “I feel that they walk away from this [experience] with a realistic understanding of what college can be like for them.”

CWU hosts an annual summer component to the RTA program that encourages future students to make a lasting connection to campus and its programs in education.

Kendall Goodman, a 2018 Lindberg High graduate, was among the students who visited CWU. It was her third RTA-related trip to Ellensburg.

“During the Central trips, I specifically learned about endorsements and the technicalities involved in getting a degree in education,” she said. “That was very helpful.”

In September, Goodman will make a return trip to campus. She has already enrolled and been accepted to CWU next year to begin her journey to become an elementary school teacher.

“I’ve had a lot of teachers that have had really big impacts on my life and I want to be able to do that for students,” Goodman offered as a reason she wants to get into the field. “When you are able to reach out to elementary-age students, you can show them that somebody in their lives really supports them, believes in them, and sees that they can go places. There are some kids who don’t have that kind of support.”

Launched in 2007, RTA is one of the longest operating program of its kind in the state. Alex Castro was among the earliest program graduates. Now a fifth-grade teacher at Benson Hill Elementary School, Castro, a 2017 CWU graduate, was among the visitation group, volunteering his time to help the newest program participants.

“If it wasn’t for this program, I don’t think I would be where I am today,” Castro acknowledged, noting he originally wanted to be an accountant. “Although I really liked education in school, and worked well with kids, I didn’t think of teaching as a career. When the [RTA] program was presented, I decided to try it for a year and see what it had to offer. I was instantly hooked and it helped me realize that this [teaching] is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

CWU education professor Eric Hougan, who helped found and now serves as CWU’s liaison to the RTA, discussed the need and benefits of a diversified teacher workforce.

“Student demographics are changing and we are in need of a teacher workforce that reflects the rich diversity of our students,” he said. “Diversifying the teacher workforce has many benefits. When we have a demographic match between teachers and students, research is showing more positive outcomes for students of color, such as in test scores and on discipline. Plus, teachers of color may serve as role models and counter some students’ stereotypes. There’s strength in learning from people with diverse backgrounds and life experiences.”

Photo caption: Eric Hougan, CWU education professor; and Kellie Dunne, junior, Hazen High School, learn virtual reality during the visit to Ellensburg. 

Media contact: Robert Lowery, director of Radio Services and Integrated Communications, 509-963-1487,