- Washington Writers' Academy
Urban Teacher Residency Finds Success in First Year
The Urban Teacher Residency Program has hired the first seven residents of the program, and for Kalamazoo Public Schools that means the program was an overwhelming success in its first year.
Already nine more potential teachers have enrolled in the second cohort of the program, which provides accelerated education and training opportunities to current employees who are interested in becoming teachers.
“We are extremely pleased with the success of the Urban Teacher Residency Program which not only provides KPS employees the opportunity to advance their educational careers but ensures that we are being proactive in addressing our students’ need to have access to diverse and qualified teachers,” said Superintendent Dr. Rita Raichoudhuri. “We want to thank Western Michigan University for their efforts to launch UTRP, and we look forward to the expansion of the program.”
This year the program will be open not only to those seeking certification in elementary education but to those who wish to become special education teachers as well.
Steve Leland, the district’s administrative personnel officer, said that the first group of UTRP graduates have all been placed as elementary teachers in the district.
“I think the first year went really well, “ Leland said. “We learned a lot too and have made tweaks to the program to make it more efficient.”
Last year, the residents worked as special classroom paraprofessionals, while this year they will be paid student interns to provide a full year of student teaching and more specific classroom experience. Also, instead of having the residents spread throughout the district, they will be concentrated in two schools: Parkwood-Upjohn Elementary School and Edison Academy.
“It will give them a cohort of people who are going through similar experiences,” Leland said. “They’ll be able to bounce ideas off each other. We’ll also be able to more easily hold weekly meetings to help them with anything they need. We think being able to interact will help them grow as teachers.”
In 2020, WMU and KPS collaborated on a nearly $5 million grant to create UTRP, which was designed to help districts cultivate teachers from the ranks of current non-teaching staff through year-long, paid student teaching experiences. In addition to their paid positions, the residents receive a $20,000 stipend to cover tuition and other college costs.
The Urban Teacher Residency Program is just one KPS effort to help build the ranks of incoming teachers and, in particular, teacher candidates from traditionally under-represented groups.
Sheila Dorsey-Smith, KPS assistant superintendent for human resources, said, “The program went well due to the strength of the residents, the flexibility of the school administrators, and the mentoring provided by district lead mentor coach Tonja Washington as well as WMU.
“It gives me great satisfaction that we are producing teachers prepared for success in our schools. Our students deserve the focus and the commitment that this program offers for new teachers. We have hired seven teachers that were in the first cohort of residents and that is what the program was designed to do.”
Dorsey-Smith said her only disappointment was there was capacity for at least 10 residents this year, and some of those spots have yet to be filled. As the district continues to build the program she would like to see the program at capacity. Leland said he is hopeful that the recently announced special education expansion of the program will help attract some last-minute candidates.
“The need for teachers in our district and the country is so very great,” Dorsey-Smith said. “We want to continue to invest in our current staff by supporting them through enrolling in this incredible program.”