September/October 2021 Issue
August 21, 2021

State approves teacher apprenticeship program

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United
Caption: Zach Sharkey, who completed a residency in Schenectady, is headed to a teaching job in the Bronx. Photo provided.

As New York grapples with a statewide teacher shortage, aspiring teachers will now have the opportunity to enter the profession through a new apprenticeship approach to initial state teacher certification.

The program will also provide tuition assistance in what’s believed to be a first-in-the-nation offering through Classroom Academy, a partnership between NYSUT, Washington-Saratoga-Warren- Hamilton-Essex BOCES, local school districts and local colleges.

Under the first-ever New York State Apprenticeship program for teacher preparation through the state Department of Labor, SUNY students will now be eligible for $5,000 in SUNY tuition assistance, in addition to the $22,000 per year living stipend they already receive through Classroom Academy. Program leaders have also applied for grant funding that, if awarded, would enable all participants to access additional tuition support.

“In numerous industries, an apprenticeship showcases to employers the commitment, hard work and ability of prospective job applicants, and education should be no different,” said Colleen McDonald, Classroom Academy program coordinator.

“This will also help districts hire highly qualified new teachers at a time of great need.”

Launched in 2016 through a National Education Association grant, Classroom Academy offers teacher preparation students a paid residency placement with local school districts to provide on-thejob experience under the guidance of an expert lead teacher. Unlike with traditional student-teacher placements, typically spanning 16 weeks in classrooms, Classroom Academy provides two full academic years of hands-on training to allow prospective teachers to better hit the ground running in their own classrooms once they are hired by a district.

“This innovative program is one more way to increase the pool of teachers to meet the shortage New York is facing,” said NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene T. DiBrango. “What’s more, by unlocking tuition assistance, in addition to the living stipend Classroom Academy already provides, we can reach prospective students who may otherwise face financial barriers that are too steep for them to achieve their dream of entering the profession.”

DiBrango noted there is a pressing need to diversify the teaching workforce. While students of color are 56 percent of enrollment statewide, just 19 percent of the teachers are. The state Board of Regents released data in 2019 showing that more than 200 school districts statewide do not employ any teachers of color.