Real Classroom Experience and Real Pay

A Snapshot of a Teacher Preparation Program in America’s Most Diverse Small City

New Jersey City University, a minority serving institution, is home to the innovative “Teacher Intern Program” (TIP) — a preservice collaboration that supports the preparation, placement, and retention of diverse educators. TIP includes vital elements that address financial and pre-professional learning needs, graduating educators that often return to teach in their home communities. 

Work in Schools 

TIP interns work anywhere from 10-30 hours/week, depending on their academic schedule and schools’ needs. They earn $20 an hour which is 54% above the New Jersey minimum wage. Substitute license fees and Praxis exam reimbursement are also provided by the program. Funding, provided by partner schools, is typically sourced through Title I budgets.

Interns are hired as early as freshman year, gaining teaching experience for three years even before their clinical experiences begin. Interns work alongside experienced teachers in the area they are seeking certification, i.e., math education majors work in math classrooms, special education majors work with special education students, etc. In classrooms, interns work with individuals, small groups, and eventually the whole class. Interns invest their time in the school community, too, and are often involved with after-school and community events.

Professional Inquiry 

Life in classrooms is seldom as clear cut as portrayed in college courses, and since interns spend three years in classrooms, monthly meetings provide valuable time to reconcile theory-into-practice gaps and to develop nuanced understandings of how matters such as equity and inclusion are enacted in complex school environments. This knowledge develops as interns complete collaborative projects. Inquiry projects include 

  • Classroom Community Podcasts enable interns to observe and interview exemplary mentors, who share how they use students’ cultural and community assets to plan engaging learning experiences. During monthly meetings, interns synthesize findings from across schools and create podcasts that reflect a refined understanding of how educators sustain inclusive classroom communities.

  • Why Am I An Educator? video reflections allow interns to deeply examine familial, cultural, local and global factors that shape their identities and priorities as aspiring teachers.

Interns have even presented their work at state and national conferences.

Praxis Exams

Praxis exams can be powerful sources of dismay.  In TIP, we combat discouragement through small Praxis study communities where faculty facilitate bi-monthly Zoom check-ins and interns set goals, share tutoring session take-aways, and offer one another continual encouragement.  Study communities regularly reinforce the fact that Praxis is a challenge taken on together.  

Growing Our Own Educators 

Interns typically receive multiple job offers upon graduation. Partner schools actively recruit them because interns are already familiar with the students, teachers, families, and overall school culture.  Most importantly, interns enter their first jobs with at least two years of classroom experience. Some interns join TIP specifically because of the positive interaction they themselves had with interns during their high school years. For example, one of our interns only wanted to become a teacher because of the example set by “Miss Kelly,” an intern who worked at her school. The program acts as a vehicle for recruiting Education majors who will graduate and enter the field with multiple years of authentic teaching experiences. 

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