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Two Donna ISD Campuses Selected To Participate in TEA's Teacher Incentive Allotment Program

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has selected two Donna ISD campuses to pilot its Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA) program paving the way for teachers to qualify for additional funding.

Donna ISD received word recently that M. Rivas School of the Arts and 3D Academy (Donna ISD’s alternative school) were approved to participate in the TIA program due in part to their success with Project Rise, a program designed to build teacher capacity through professional development.

According to its website, TIA was established by House Bill 3 in 2019 as a way to create a path for highly effective teachers from approved TIA districts to receive anywhere from $3,000 to  $32,000 a year on top of their annual salary. To qualify, teachers must earn a designation of recognized, exemplary, or master distinction. Teachers who teach at rural and/or high needs campuses (districts with student enrollment of fewer than 5,000) will receive bigger allotments.

"In this inaugural year, we’re proud to announce that four of our Donna ISD teachers received ‘Recognized’ status for last year’s performance and will each receive a check of approximately $5,000," Donna ISD Superintendent Dr. Hafedh Azaiez said. "As a small high-poverty district, this is exciting news because TIA will enable us to have a competitive edge over other districts in rewarding, retaining and recruiting exemplary teachers."

The designation determination was made based on the teacher’s performance under the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System and student growth over the course of the school year for students who are assigned to the teacher.

For their reward, teachers Odette Rodriguez and Alma Zarama from M. Rivas School of the Arts were each presented with a check of a little more than $5,600.

"I was very excited when I learned that I qualified for the Teacher Incentive Allotment," Rodriguez said. “I was even more excited when I was told it was for the work I did last year because I wasn’t as prepared as I am now. As a teacher you teach your students from the heart, and it’s very nice to receive monetary recognition for something you enjoy doing."

"It got me to thinking how I got here," Zarama said. "That was my main thought when I first heard the news. As I read up on the TIA, I learned that it has to do with teacher evaluations. This is something we were already doing at our school 3 to 4 times a year over the past couple of years, which helped me reflect as an educator and on how I can improve. The second thing is student growth and analyzing student data was something we were doing as well. While it’s our duty as educators to be doing this, it’s gratifying to know that we’re getting rewarded for it."

For their reward, teachers Elyssha Enriquez and Oscar Hernandez from 3D Academy received just over $5,800.

"When I first heard that I was going to be eligible for the TIA, I was surprised to learn about the recognition that came with it and the amount that the program would be offering," Enriquez said. "I teach a General Employability Class and every day I try to come up with different lessons and focus on my student’s needs. So yes, the TIA is encouraging, but honestly, I care deeply about my students and already work hard to give them the knowledge and care that they deserve."

"The first thing that went through my mind was that it’s an honor," Hernandez said. "As I’m winding down my career, I’ve always been so appreciative of the support I’ve received from Donna ISD. I’ve been teaching 27 years and the district has provided all the resources and materials that I need. They gave me a golden opportunity to teach the students that perhaps have some issues and I’m in a situation that I can make an immediate impact because they want to graduate. So, I’m thankful for Donna ISD’s support."

The district’s goal next school year is to expand the designation system to include teachers at all its campuses.