July/August 2019 Issue
June 21, 2019

Teacher residency program expanding

Author: By Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United
Share This Article...
classroom academy
Caption: Hudson Falls attending teacher Nathan St. John, left, and first-year resident Lucas Sconzo lead a high school English class. Photo provided.

Teacher resident Kayleigh Ward remembers the exact moment she found her “teacher voice.”

She was helping out after school and giving some pointers to a couple members of the girl’s volleyball team on how to lift weights, when her attending teacher, coach Therese DeCan pulled her aside.

“She said, ‘Remember that voice — that confidence,’ and bring it into the classroom,” said Ward, who was initially a little uneasy standing in front of their sixth-grade class. “That moment totally changed my approach. Therese’s ability to push me — and give me such constructive feedback — really helped me figure out who I am as a teacher.”

Ward’s “aha” moment was one of many personal experiences shared at a June celebration for the first graduates of the Classroom Academy, a union-backed, two-year residency program for SUNY Plattsburgh master’s degree students.

Others talked about how they learned make-or-break classroom management tips; how to handle a difficult parent-teacher conference; or in one case, how to deal with the tragic death of a high school student. All of the teacher residents said they believe the program gave them a leg up in landing job interviews.

“We started small — but at this point, we’re having the happy problem of keeping up with all the placements districts are requesting,” said program director Colleen McDonald, a recently retired Cambridge Faculty Association leader.

The pilot program began with a $738,000 National Education Association grant distributed over three years. Under the model, aspiring teachers with bachelor’s degrees enter SUNY Plattsburgh’s master’s degree program in teaching, with a residency assignment in one of several rural North Country districts or the local BOCES.

The program uses the same lingo as hospital residencies. Candidates are called “residents” and the experienced instructors overseeing their work are known as “attendings.”

In addition to gaining extensive hands-on experience in the classroom, each resident receives a $22,000-a-year living stipend, plenty of individualized and group support, and a year’s service credit toward professional certification.

Residents also take master’s level courses, including up to 15 credits in pedagogy the summer before their classroom placement. The attending teachers receive a $4,500 stipend.

Aside from the NEA grant, the program is funded through a BOCES contract for shared service, or CoSer, where districts are reimbursed for a substantial portion of salaries.

In a report before the Board of Regents in May, McDonald said the program is expanding to include two more higher education partners and additional districts including Stillwater and Schenectady City Schools. Current districts participating are Cambridge, Hudson Falls, Beekmantown and Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES.

Surveys so far show parents support the residency program and believe having an extra adult in the classroom is beneficial, McDonald said. Research on the program’s impact is promising and McDonald noted that 100 percent of the first-year residents passed their edTPA assessment. She’s eager to track whether the program improves teacher retention rates.

“At a time when we’re facing a teacher shortage, we want to do everything we can to encourage more people to enter the profession,” said NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango. “And most importantly, we want them to have the support they need to succeed.”

Teacher resident Kayleigh Ward remembers the exact moment she found her “teacher voice.”

She was helping out after school and giving some pointers to a couple members of the girl’s volleyball team on how to lift weights, when her attending teacher, coach Therese DeCan pulled her aside.

“She said, ‘Remember that voice — that confidence,’ and bring it into the classroom,” said Ward, who was initially a little uneasy standing in front of their sixth-grade class. “That moment totally changed my approach. Therese’s ability to push me — and give me such constructive feedback — really helped me figure out who I am as a teacher.”

Ward’s “aha” moment was one of many personal experiences shared at a June celebration for the first graduates of the Classroom Academy, a union-backed, two-year residency program for SUNY Plattsburgh master’s degree students.

Others talked about how they learned make-or-break classroom management tips; how to handle a difficult parent-teacher conference; or in one case, how to deal with the tragic death of a high school student. All of the teacher residents said they believe the program gave them a leg up in landing job interviews.

“We started small — but at this point, we’re having the happy problem of keeping up with all the placements districts are requesting,” said program director Colleen McDonald, a recently retired Cambridge Faculty Association leader.

The pilot program began with a $738,000 National Education Association grant distributed over three years. Under the model, aspiring teachers with bachelor’s degrees enter SUNY Plattsburgh’s master’s degree program in teaching, with a residency assignment in one of several rural North Country districts or the local BOCES.

The program uses the same lingo as hospital residencies. Candidates are called “residents” and the experienced instructors overseeing their work are known as “attendings.”

In addition to gaining extensive hands-on experience in the classroom, each resident receives a $22,000-a-year living stipend, plenty of individualized and group support, and a year’s service credit toward professional certification.

Residents also take master’s level courses, including up to 15 credits in pedagogy the summer before their classroom placement. The attending teachers receive a $4,500 stipend.

Aside from the NEA grant, the program is funded through a BOCES contract for shared service, or CoSer, where districts are reimbursed for a substantial portion of salaries.

In a report before the Board of Regents in May, McDonald said the program is expanding to include two more higher education partners and additional districts including Stillwater and Schenectady City Schools. Current districts participating are Cambridge, Hudson Falls, Beekmantown and Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES.

Surveys so far show parents support the residency program and believe having an extra adult in the classroom is beneficial, McDonald said. Research on the program’s impact is promising and McDonald noted that 100 percent of the first-year residents passed their edTPA assessment. She’s eager to track whether the program improves teacher retention rates.

“At a time when we’re facing a teacher shortage, we want to do everything we can to encourage more people to enter the profession,” said NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango. “And most importantly, we want them to have the support they need to succeed.”

NYSUT Footer
Our Voice, Our Values, Our Union