Ready to Teach: Simultaneous Renewal in a Colorado PDS

A new video in AACTE’s Research-to-Practice Spotlight Series focuses on a thriving partnership in Colorado from the perspectives of novice teachers prepared in a professional development school model. This blog highlights one teacher’s experience and offers insights from his assistant principal about the program’s success.

The forward-thinking partnership between Colorado State University (CSU) and the local Poudre School District employs a professional development school (PDS) model to prepare teachers who are ready to teach on Day 1. Their classroom is the classroom: Instead of taking their classes off site at the university, prospective teachers receive their lessons and then put them into practice in the same school building—with real kids and under the tutelage of a real teacher. While the program’s elements are fairly typical, its particular success comes from each course’s clinical component and support from a robust professional community.

Nick Baltzell is a 2012 graduate of the CSU-Poudre program. His first teaching job came as a last-minute assignment in an unfamiliar school—but he says he still felt ready for the challenge, thanks to the nurturing progression of clinical practice he experienced in the PDS. Semester by semester, these experiences gradually bolstered his comfort in the classroom and helped him make a smoother transition to student teaching and then to his own classroom. “By the time I reached my student teaching, there were some nerves,” he conceded, but by then he had developed confidence that he was “prepared to learn as you go.”

Baltzell now teaches at Fort Collins High School—the same PDS site where he completed his preparation, and where fully one third of the staff came from the CSU program. Jen Roth, assistant principal of the high school, said the school benefits tremendously from the partnership, and not only because of the convenient pipeline it provides of skilled new teachers. “Teachers look forward to having PDS students,” she said, who help ease the burdens of large class sizes. “The other piece is that the teachers in the classrooms are invited into the [CSU course],” she added. “It really becomes this circular, iterative learning process.”

The CSU-Poudre partnership, now more than two decades in operation, embodies John Goodlad’s vision of simultaneous renewal—meaning that everyone involved benefits from the collaboration. Situating content and pedagogy in a framework of collegial relationships, the PDS not only provides authentic practice for student teachers but also simultaneously renews the practice of university faculty and PK-12 teachers. Partner schools also depend on the steady supply of staffing support from CSU students, and their close relationship with the university has even led to customized degree offerings for veteran teachers and administrators.

For teacher candidates, the model creates a solid foundation that empowers them to hit the ground running in their first teaching job. They learn best practices, give and receive constant feedback with peers and mentors, and build a valuable network of support for not only their student teaching but during their employment search and beyond. Most of all, they have plenty of time and practice to grow into novice teachers who are already quite experienced by the time they earn their first teaching license.

“Student teaching has gotten a bad rap in the past,” Roth said. “With this program, CSU ensures that student teachers are ready when they enter the classroom.”

“Our primary goal as teacher preparation professionals is to put the best people in front of students as we can,” said Rod Lucero, who was part of the CSU faculty team that cultivated the partnership and now works at AACTE. “The CSU-Poudre partnership does just that.”

Want to learn more? Check out this recorded panel presentation from last fall moderated by AACTE’s Mark LaCelle-Peterson, and hear from Baltzell and fellow new teachers in the Research-to-Practice Spotlight here.

Tags: , , ,