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Clinically Rich Programs in New York: Western New York Teacher Residency at Canisius College Rich

Prepared to TeachThis article is part of a series on clinically rich teacher preparation in New York State, coordinated by Prepared To Teach at Bank Street College. The text is adapted from their latest report, Making Teacher Preparation Policy Work: Lessons From and For New York, and shared by the featured institution.

In the fall of 2018, Canisius College developed the Western New York Teacher Residency Program (WNYTR).  The two-year, graduate level program is designed to prepare skilled teachers who are committed to teaching in Buffalo schools, especially schools with high poverty rates and few resources.

In the planning phase of WNYTR, representatives from five partner schools, seeking a pipeline of well-prepared, diverse teachers, met regularly with College administrators and faculty to discuss the design of the program and align the curriculum to eight Canisius Resident Practices, including, for example, eliciting and interpreting student thinking; supporting students across their social, emotional, and academic needs; and designing/adapting appropriate student lessons and assessments.

After spending a year planning for this program’s launch, there was deep and mutual commitment to the goals and objectives of the program moving into the resident selection process.

During the first year of the two-year program, residents take 11 courses and participate in field experiences with children who have special needs at local elementary schools.  In several courses, the residents are taught by teacher leaders from partner schools. In the second year of the program, the residency year, residents take three courses in fall and one course in spring, and are employed by partner schools as teacher assistants receiving a $24,000 salary from partner schools.

Upon successful completion of the program, residents graduate with a master’s degree and dual state certifications in Childhood Education (1-6) and Special Education (1-6) with options for early childhood and/or middle school extensions.  School partners place these residents first in line for teaching jobs in their schools.

The mentor selection and resident placement process helps ensure positive, committed relationships within the residency. Potential mentor teachers are first identified by a building principal, then complete an application to indicate interest in becoming a mentor.  The program co-directors conduct a classroom observation and a brief interview with the prospective mentor to determine fit and an individual’s capacity to be an effective mentor. Following a social event sponsored by the WNYTR program, mentor teachers and residents each identify preferences for placements.  Once resident/school/teacher matches are finalized, the school agrees to employ the resident as a teacher assistant.

Two WNYTR coaches conduct nine mentor teacher trainings throughout the academic year and visit partner schools periodically to work with mentor teachers to build their capacity as effective mentors. Mentor teacher trainings help to create a network of teacher leaders in each building.

The WNYTR Program intends to expand its school and district partners and continues to investigate options for sustainable funding sources to confirm dollars for the newly developed WNYTR.  Canisius College anticipates a time when all teacher education can engage in a sustained residency experience in Buffalo schools to best prepare them to serve the children in the community. 

Our goal has always been to prepare professionally and socially committed educators who embody social justice values and embrace a growth mindset. The program has also been successful in recruiting ethnically and racially diverse candidates—over half of the first two cohorts are people of color. 

To learn more about WNYTR, please visit the website.

Lorrei DiCamillo, is associate dean and professor, School of Education and Human Services and Western New York Teacher Residency Program co-director at Canisius College.

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