Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore is excited about a new "grow your own" teacher preparation program — the Urban Teacher Academy.
Starting this fall, a cohort of ninth-graders in the city's McKinley High School will embark on a four-year program of career-focused classes that introduces them to the teaching profession and allows them to earn up to 12 college credits.
"It's the whole package," Rumore said. "This is something many of us have wanted to do for years. It will encourage kids — and their parents — to think about a career in education." It also will help bring diversity into the teaching ranks, he said.
Rumore noted students will get field experience in Buffalo classrooms and be matched with a mentor already working in the school system. "The mentor component is critical so the student has someone to talk to, to encourage them," he said.
Students who want to continue in the program will receive a full tuition scholarship at SUNY Buffalo State, along with financial assistance for room and board.
After graduating from college, the students will get preference for jobs in the district, as long as they commit to working four to five years in the city schools.
The Urban Teacher Academy is designed to encourage students of color to think about teaching and long-term careers in urban school districts. Diversity in the teaching ranks has become a concern all over the country.
In Buffalo, white teachers make up 86 percent of the workforce, while 81 percent of the students in the district are non-white, a city school spokeswoman said.
Faculty members from Buffalo State and staff from the Buffalo public schools will collaborate to develop the curricula for four college-level courses as part of the new program. Academy students will also take part in activities at Buffalo State to help them prepare for college.
Theresa Harris-Tigg, a professor of English education at Buffalo State, United University Professions member and member of the Buffalo school board, said the new program will enhance teacher preparation and help provide a more diverse candidate pool of teaching professionals for the entire Western New York region.
"Teaching is lifelong learning," she said. "We're starting with ninth-graders and we are going to grow them out ... I'm excited to be talking to students about their own teaching and learning experiences."
Rumore said grant funding will initially help pay for the program, but his ultimate goal is to set up a foundation that accepts donations.
Watch for more
Buffalo's new Urban Teacher Academy is among many programs designed to improve teacher recruitment and retention. In future issues, NYSUT United will profile other innovative programs, including a new two-year residency program at SUNY Plattsburgh in which college students work with teachers in Hudson Falls, Cambridge and the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES. Tell us about programs in your area. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.