Peers across the state reflect on the impact this visionary teacher educator made on rural education.
Doug Hamman, a visionary teacher educator dedicated to uplifting the profession of teaching and expanding access to high-quality, university-based educator preparation programs – especially for rural and underserved communities in Texas – passed away Saturday. He was 61.
“Doug was a visionary and a driving force behind the TechTeach program, which gained national recognition as an innovative program in teacher education,” Texas Tech University President Lawrence Schovanec said. “We extend our heartfelt sympathy to his family. His loss is mourned by all who knew him, but particularly felt by those in the education community to whom he was so devoted.”
A self-described “rowdy” youngster with poor grades, Hamman became a professor of education partly by accident. He later rose to become a leading figure in teacher preparation in Texas. With Scott Ridley, the former dean of Texas Tech's College of Education from 2011 to 2018, Hamman pioneered a new partnership-focused style of teacher preparation in Texas that is regarded as a model by colleges around the nation.
After Ridley's death from cancer in 2018, Hamman continued the work and began cementing his own legacy in rural education by launching a movement of West Texas universities, community colleges and school districts around rural teacher preparation.
“He was a trailblazer,” said Clifton Tanabe, dean of education at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). “Doug and Dean Ridley had a strong vision for how to change teacher preparation in Texas and across the country. They got funding and made that vision into a reality and, even more than that, they shared that model with others.”
Hamman was known as an ally of rural superintendents, who had previously relied on alternative certification programs and desperate measures to address their staffing needs.
“Before Doug and Scott, the perception was that rural schools were not a priority for universities,” said Shawn Mason, retired superintendent of Crosbyton Consolidated Independent School District (CISD) who now works at Texas Tech as a rural schools liaison. “Small schools were not on the radar. Doug changed that.”
‘Culture of Growth'
Although rural education was where Hamman eventually found his niche, his path there can be traced to 2011, when he and Ridley began revamping the teacher education program at Texas Tech.
The reformed program, called TechTeach, broke with traditional ways of preparing teachers.
Students spent less time on the Texas Tech campus and were instead based at a school district for a residency experience, co-teaching alongside a skilled mentor teacher for a full academic year. The curriculum placed a focus on demonstrating mastery of job-specific skills instead of simply completing a certain number of credit hours. Special Texas Tech faculty members, called “site coordinators” and described by Hamman as the “linchpin of the entire program,” were embedded in the schools with the student teachers, providing constant support and guidance.
Ridley and Hamman also pledged to produce the “measurably best” educators by finding innovative ways to assess the skill of student teachers, such as looking at how test scores improved in classrooms where TechTeach students were co-teaching.
The duo not only implemented the model in partnership with school districts near the Texas Tech campus in Lubbock. They took it to cities across Texas, forming close partnerships with Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio school districts.
Because of their efforts, students could access a high-quality university-based teacher education program without having to leave home. Hamman found that students were more likely to be committed to the schools and communities where they grew up and would, in turn, become better teachers.
In 2017, Ridley and Hamman started testing a rural-focused version of the program in Crosbyton: a community of 1,500 people 37 miles east of Lubbock.
The program breathed life into the 300-student Crosbyton school district, which was struggling with poor state accountability ratings and high teacher turnover, Mason said. It gave renewed hope to Crosbyton, where the school district was the largest employer and served as the social center.
“Doug helped us create a culture of growth,” Mason said. “These TechTeach kids came in so prepared and so motivated that it motivated our mentor teachers. Seeing those mentor teachers and those student teachers motivated our entire staff. It caught fire and changed the entire district for the better.”
The Texas Education Agency was impressed with the results, awarding a series of grants to Texas Tech and rural partner districts starting in 2018 to expand the work and support student teachers with stipends.
Hamman was always moving fast – sometimes too fast, according to Robin Lock, the vice dean under Ridley who served as interim dean following his death. Hamman, dissatisfied with the lack of progress in extending the teacher pipeline, would often plow ahead on projects without completing all the proper university paperwork.
“Doug had a bit of a rebellious side to him,” Lock said. “He basically said, ‘I can't do this by the old-fashioned rules because they're what created the problem in the first place.' Scott had the dream, but Doug had the drive and the moxie to break barriers.”
Carrying the Torch
Hamman's passion for serving rural communities would culminate in the West Texas Rural Education Partnership: a large-scale collaboration of universities, community colleges and school districts to build pathways to teaching in rural communities and address teacher shortages.
Established in 2021, the Texas Tech-led partnership includes UTEP, University of Texas Permian Basin, West Texas A&M University, Amarillo College, El Paso Community College, South Plains College and several other institutions of higher education.
The project (which last year received a $1.5 million gift from the Prentice Farrar Brown and Alline Ford Brown Foundation to continue its efforts) is committed to producing more than 250 new teachers each year who will enter rural classrooms.
In establishing the partnership, Hamman declared that it was time for West Texas universities to come together with local community colleges and school districts to prioritize district needs above all else.
“In many cases, institutions of higher education have sought out national prestige in place of their founding mission to serve local communities,” Hamman complained in a manifesto for the partnership.
The West Texas Rural Education Partnership and TechTeach have helped place Texas at the forefront of educator preparation nationwide, Tanabe said.
“It sounds like a little bit of an exaggeration, but I think Texas may soon lead the entire country when it comes to high-quality teacher preparation pathways and residencies,” he said. “I don't know, but I think if you want to connect all the dots all the way back to Doug, it wouldn't be crazy.”
Hamman's legacy also lives on through University-School Partnerships for the Renewal of Educator Preparation National Center (US PREP), a technical center at Texas Tech that helps other colleges across the country implement the TechTeach model. Launched in 2015 by Ridley, the center has transformed teacher education programs at more than two dozen institutions in Texas, Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York and Oregon.
“Dean Ridley worked relentlessly to disrupt inequity in our schools, and Doug was able to carry that torch,” said Sarah Beal, executive director of US PREP. “He never stopped working to ensure that our schools that have been historically underserved have access to the best teachers.
“I think his work will continue through US PREP, and I think Doug did a great job of empowering his staff and site coordinators and supporting their capacity in leading and continuing this work.”
The Next Big Thing
In addition to his work in teacher preparation, Hamman was responsible for ensuring the fairness and quality of Texas' performance-pay system for teachers, the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA).
State lawmakers gave Texas Tech and Hamman the important job – and a $24.9 million grant, the largest in Texas Tech history at the time – in part because of the success of TechTeach and its track record of partnering with districts around Texas.
During the 2021-22 academic year, TIA generated an additional $55.5 million in teacher compensation for more than 6,000 outstanding teachers across Texas, incentivizing the most talented teachers to work at high-needs and rural campuses.
To Hamman, the project represented another innovative way to bring equity to education.
“He was always looking for the next big thing,” said Jesse Perez Mendez, dean of the College of Education. “He was utterly passionate about education, particularly education in rural areas. It was a religion to him.”
Hamman could often be found speed-walking the halls of the College of Education, always on a mission and often wearing his signature bowtie. He served in many leadership roles during his time at the college, including founding chair of the Department of Teacher Education and, more recently, interim associate dean for research and faculty/staff development.
Hamman had also accepted an appointment as Helen DeVitt Jones Endowed Professor of Professional Education in fall 2022, after stepping down as chair of teacher education earlier that spring.
He returned to teaching in the fall, co-teaching a service-learning course with his wife, Fanni Coward, an associate professor in the College of Education. In the course, they took Texas Tech students off campus to gain hands-on teaching experience with children at Guadalupe-Parkway Sommerville Centers.
Hamman saw the step back from chairing the department as an opportunity to publish research on his experiences with TechTeach and teacher preparation.
“It is time to re-orient my work toward helping others by building the literature of teacher education,” he said in a November interview.
Among his top goals was researching how to incline kids to enter the teaching profession. Finding out what triggers that eureka moment of certainty in a career in teaching – a force that, once harnessed, might be a useful tool in solving teacher shortages – was something Hamman became fascinated with after surveying TechTeach students.
“They talked about role models, they talked about teachers who were supportive, they talked about informal opportunities to teach, like tutoring, service learning or teaching karate or dance,” he said of the survey results. “They had these experiences, and they loved it and said, ‘That's when I first knew I wanted to be a teacher.' But we're not tapping into that. We're just kind of letting that happen haphazardly.”
Douglas David Hamman was born Jan. 20, 1962 in Decatur, Illinois. His family moved to Lubbock just two months later, and Hamman attended Christ the King Cathedral School. He was a self-described unruly and unmotivated student who underwent a “conversion” during his senior year after his father's death.
“I asked, ‘What's the most important thing I could do with my life?'” he said.
Hamman decided to become a priest, studying philosophy in college and then spending a year working at a church in Dalhart, a small rural community in the Texas Panhandle. “I loved the ministry and loved doing that kind of work,” he said.
He went on to two years of seminary school in Ohio, earning his master's in systematic theology in 1987. He had a last-minute change of heart, however, and never entered the priesthood.
Again searching for purpose, at one point thinking he might even become a professional landscaper, Hamman one day found himself in a graduate advisers' office at the University of Texas at Austin. There, he told an adviser he was interested in teaching psychology.
“She said, ‘Oh you'd like to teach educational psychology?'” Hamman recounted.
“I said, ‘Uh, yeah. Sure.'”
Despite the misunderstanding, Hamman thrived in the program and earned his doctorate in educational psychology from UT in 1995. He took his first job in academia as an assistant professor at Merrimack College in Massachusetts. After a stint in education consulting on the East Coast, Hamman joined the Texas Tech faculty in 2002.
Ridley arrived at Texas Tech from Arizona State University in 2011, bringing an established reputation as an education reformer and kicking off the most productive period of Hamman's career. They butted heads at first, Hamman admitted, but eventually bonded over a shared alma mater and formative experiences in rural West Texas. An ordained minister, Ridley even officiated Hamman's wedding in 2017.
“He gave me a direction on where I could point this ambition to do something big,” Hamman said.
And although Hamman never became a priest, he still felt a religious undercurrent in his work in teacher education.
“It is very much mission driven,” Hamman said. “The 18-year-old kid who wanted to do something really important – I think that's what this teacher preparation stuff has been about. It's a mission. I see it that way.”
Hamman's funeral will be held 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12 at Lake Ridge Chapel & Memorial Designers, 6025 82nd St, Lubbock, Texas 79424. A fund has also been established at Texas Tech in Hamman's honor. Gifts will go toward continuing his work and honoring his legacy and can be made at www.give.ttu.edu/hamman.