UNLV wants to create top-notch teachers with ‘Top Gun’ program

Ideas are brewing for Makenzi Solis.

She wants to research new ways to help special education students learn in general education classrooms.

And she’ll have the opportunity to do so as part of the first cohort for the Nevada Institute for Teaching and Educator Preparation.

“I think it’s really cool because we’re going to be on the forefront of education,” Solis, 18, said. “Once we graduate, we’re going to be the people that other educators look at for advice on how to run their classrooms and how to use different techniques that we have researched.”

Solis is one of 10 fellows — or “Top Gun” future educators — on UNLV’s campus this fall. The program was formed in June 2017 by Gov. Brian Sandoval as a way of recruiting the most promising future educators from around the country to teach Nevada students.

“We’re situated in the middle of the fifth-largest school district and among the most diverse school districts in the country,” said Kim Metcalf, dean of the College of Education at UNLV. “While we have the same problems that other large districts have, if you want to pursue a career in education, we argue that Clark County provides you opportunities that over the course of your career, you aren’t going to have any place else.”

Shaping leaders

The state Board of Education chose UNLV to house the Top Gun program, and awarded the university $1 million from the state — combined with $1 million in university matching funds — for the first two years.

“It’s project based — driven by student interest and their voice,” said Matt Borek, director of educator preparation, recruitment and field placement at UNLV. “Wherever their interests take them, we’ll help facilitate and take it to the next step.”

Jessica Gonzalez, a Top Gun fellow studying special education, wants to research what happens to special education students once they leave public education.

“Some of them just sit at home because their parents don’t have knowledge that they can go to college or that there’s programs that will support their kids to go to college,” she said.

Borek and Metcalf want the Top Gun fellows — armed with research and project-based opportunities — to enter Nevada classrooms as excellent teachers and demonstrate leadership potential to make a positive change on the overall K-12 system in the state. Metcalf says he sees UNLV becoming world-renowned for generating and shaping professional teaching practice.

“It’s really exciting because we understand that these opportunities aren’t really given to undergrad students, especially first-year undergrad students,” Gonzalez, a freshman, said. “To be given this opportunity, without even applying for it or asking for it, is a really exciting thing.”

Both Gonzalez and Solis were brought into the program on the day that they signed their Teach Nevada scholarship acceptance paperwork.

“We’re going to have our undergrad training, and then we’re going to have this NITEP training, so that’s just additional experience for us to put towards these kids,” Solis said.

As a NITEP fellow, students will receive an annual stipend that grows from $2,500 as a freshman to $10,000 as a senior.

“During that period of time, their responsibilities to the program and to the schools where they teach increase each year,” Metcalf. “And as they get to those upper levels, they’ll play an increasing role in mentoring folks who are new to the program.”

Community buy-in

This year’s cohort is made up of five freshmen and five juniors, all of whom are from Nevada, but one important piece of the program is to look beyond the state’s borders for promising talent. Future cohorts will be made up of 25 students recruited from around the country.

“If you bring someone here who is already licensed, they tend to come only so they can get a job,” Metcalf said. “They have a tendency to leave and go back home because they have no investment in the community. With this program, we’ll spend that four years getting them to buy in and invest personally into the community, and what is has to offer.”

Borek has launched a full national search for students. He’s attending college fairs in New York and Chicago, visiting high schools in the greater Boston area, and is establishing relationships with high school guidance counselors in Southern California.

“This year we can really go out and execute the full plan,” Borek said.

Nonetheless, the first cohort will play a key role.

“The 10 students this year are going to be really important in designing the program, the infrastructure,” Borek said. “During the first year, we’ll draw on student voice as we continue building out the program and the first full group of 25 is going to be joining a more well-run machine.”

It’s a thrilling prospect for Gonzalez.

“Like Dr. Borek said, it could take any path,” Gonzalez said. “We could really mold this program to be what we want it to be.”

Contact Natalie Bruzda at nbruzda@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3897. Follow @NatalieBruzda on Twitter.

Nature Conservancy Ranch
The Nature Conservancy just bought the 900-acre 7J Ranch at the headwaters of the Amargosa River, north of Beatty. The property could become a research station, though ranching will continue.
Swift water rescue at Durango Wash in Las Vegas
On Thursday, February 14, 2019, at approximately 8:42 a.m., the Clark County Fire Department responded to a report of a swift water incident where people were trapped in the Durango wash which is located near 8771 Halcon Ave. Personnel found one person who was trapped in the flood channel. The individual was transported to the hospital in stable condition. Video by Clark County Fire & Rescue.
Flooding at E Cheyenne in N. Las Vegas Blvd.
Quick Weather Around the Strip
Rain hits Las Vegas, but that doesn't stop people from heading out to the Strip. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries. The Cleveland Clinic will begin researching the brains of retired bull riders to understand the impact traumatic brain injuries have on cognition. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Matt Stutzman shoots arrows with his feet
Matt Stutzman who was born without arms shoots arrows with his feet and hits the bullseye with remarkable accuracy. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Secretary of Air Force Emphasizes the Importance of Nellis AFB
US Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson visited Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag training and described how important the base is to the military.
Former Northwest Academy student speaks out
Tanner Reynolds, 13, with his mother Angela McDonald, speaks out on his experience as a former student of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff member Caleb Michael Hill. Hill, 29, was arrested Jan. 29 by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of child abuse.
Former Northwest Academy students speak out
Tristan Groom, 15, and his brother Jade Gaastra, 23, speak out on their experiences as former students of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff and excessive medication.
Disruption At Metro PD OIS Presser
A man claiming to be part of the press refused to leave a press conference at Metro police headquarters, Wednesday January 30, 2019. Officers were forced to physically remove the man. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience after the city began operating around the clock. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas parts ways with operator of homeless courtyard
Jocelyn Bluitt-Fisher discusses the transition between operators of the homeless courtyard in Las Vegas, Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.(Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police and Raiders partner with SafeNest
Las Vegas police and the Raiders partner with SafeNest on Project Safe 417 (the police code for domestic violence is 417). The program partners trained SafeNest volunteer advocates with Metropolitan Police Department officers dispatched to domestic violence calls, allowing advocates to provide immediate crisis advocacy to victims at the scene of those calls. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
North Las Vegas police chief discusses officer-involved shooting
North Las Vegas police chief Pamela Ojeda held a press conference Thursday, Jan. 24, regarding an officer-involved shooting that took place on Jan. 21. The incident resulted in the killing of suspect Horacio Ruiz-Rodriguez. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Volunteers gather for annual Clark County homeless count
Volunteers gather for the annual Southern Nevada Homeless Census, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who can understand hospital price lists?
Lists of costs for procedures, drugs and devices are now posted the websites of hospitals to comply with a new federal rule designed to provide additional consumer transparency. Good luck figuring out what they mean.
People in Mesquite deal with a massive power outage
People in Mesquite respond to a major power outage in the area on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Group helping stranded motorists during power outage
A group of Good Samaritans are offering free gas to people in need at the Glendale AM/PM, during a massive power outage near Mesquite on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen falls at Las Vegas parade
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada fell and injured her wrist at the Martin Luther King Day parade in Las Vegas on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local astronomers host super blood wolf moon viewing
The Las Vegas Astronomical Society paired with the College of Southern Nevada to host a lunar eclipse viewing Sunday night. Known as the super blood wolf moon, the astronomical event won't occur for another 18 years. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Tate Elementary shows academic progress after categorical funding
Students at Tate Elementary in Las Vegas has benefited from a program to boost education funding in targeted student populations, known as categorical funding. One program called Zoom helps students who have fallen below grade level in reading. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The third annual Women’s March in Las Vegas
The third annual Women’s March in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @btesfaye
First former felon to work for Nevada Department of Corrections
After his father died, Michael Russell struggled for years with drug addiction. When he finally decided to change for good, he got sober and worked for years to help others. Now he is the first former felon to be hired by the Nevada Department of Corrections. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Three Square helps TSA workers
Three Square Food Bank donated over 400 care bags to TSA workers affected by the government shutdown Wednesday, filled with food, personal hygiene products and water.
Las Vegas furniture store donates to Clark County firehouses
Walker Furniture donated new mattresses to all 30 Clark County firehouses in the Las Vegas Valley, starting today with Station 22. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mount Charleston Gets Heavy Snow, Fog
Mount Charleston saw heavy snow today, and fog in lower elevations as a cold front swept across the Las Vegas Valley. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Krystal Whipple arrested in Arizona
Krystal Whipple, charged in the killing of a Las Vegas nail salon manager over a $35 manicure, is expected to return to Nevada to face a murder charge.
Holocaust survivor on acceptance
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, talks about the most important message for people to understand from her life and experiences.
Holocaust survivor speaks about telling her story
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, tells of opening up about her experiences during Sunday’s event at Temple Sinai.
Jesus Jara State of the Schools address
Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara delivers his State of the Schools address on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like