The Editorial Board: UB’s new teacher residency program breaks new ground with creativity and substance | Editorial

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Any program that can bring more young people into teaching careers is great news. But then the caveats begin. What about retention? What about diversity? How comprehensive is the training? Will their newfound enthusiasm survive the stress levels and potential for burnout that have driven many people out of the profession?

There are no guarantees in these days of “big quits” and “silent quits,” but the University at Buffalo’s teacher residency program, established in 2019, is enjoying early success.

The program allows anyone with an eligible bachelor’s degree to receive intensive training, including a full academic year of mentoring and co-teaching with a seasoned teacher in a Buffalo public school classroom. Rigorous courses are also part of it.

This strategy differs significantly from traditional teacher certification programs, which rely on 15 weeks of instruction by students, usually split between seven and eight weeks each in two different schools.

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Inspired by the experience of medical students, the residency program allows for a full year of observation, experimentation, and relationship building in the same classroom. After that, residents must teach for three years in the Buffalo public school system, a program requirement.

Interestingly, students who originally planned very different careers opted for a teaching residency instead, including those quoted in journalist Janet Gramza’s September 5 article. A graduate of the program, Gary Crump, changed his career from law to education and now teaches social studies at Olmsted High School. Crump, who moved here from New York, plans to stay in Buffalo, where he is “making change and bringing joy to the classroom.”

The program prides itself on its diverse makeup, which includes — in 2022-23 — 32% White, 47% Black/African American, 11% Hispanic/Latin, and 11% Asian or multiracial residents. These aspiring teachers have backgrounds that reflect the residency program’s commitment to educational equity, faculty diversity, and preparing teachers to work with historically underserved student populations.

The deeper classroom experience and better mentorship offered by this program is already paying off in its early stages. It has placed 70 new teachers in city school classrooms and UB will make year-long residencies a requirement throughout its teacher training program. Although the pilot program comes with stipends of $18,000, it is not certain that they will be universally offered. funding is sought.

Some residents feel that this program has created a community where newly certified teachers can count on each other to discuss program ideas and ways to better engage their students.

One of the program’s first graduates, Sydney Favors, gives an example of how she and her fellow social studies teachers in the program tackle issues in the classroom: “We teach the history and the massacre of Tops, George Floyd, the Asian hatred, Covid and the Jan 6 insurgency unfolded while we were teaching in Buffalo Public Schools We need to have these discussions.

The pandemic has revealed many lingering gaps and needs in K-12 education. This has compounded mental health issues and increased stress levels for everyone: teachers, students, parents and administrators. The divisive societal issues, still simmering beneath the surface, have become more evident.

Teachers have to somehow struggle through it all to connect with their students and help them prepare for life’s challenges. Isn’t it logical that a longer and more thorough preparation for this task is necessary?

It will surely be difficult for teacher education programs in other regions to consider anything other than the traditional student teaching placements that are built into their programs. But they should consider a program that easily doubles the class time included in traditional student instruction. Another Buffalo college, Canisius, is already on board.

Canisius has been running a residency program for teachers for five years. It also includes a full year of supervised education in a high-needs, multicultural school setting. and adds classrooms at Buffalo Public School — in addition to its partner charter schools — starting this year.

Other Western New York teacher education departments should keep an eye on these programs.

It is a concept that makes sense and should spread further.

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Ryan H. Bowman