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Resident Teachers: Program Helps Develop Pipeline of Well-Prepared Future Educators

This article was originally published by the Tribune-Star.

As a participant in a state-funded teacher residency program, Alexis Spice — then an Indiana State University senior — spent her 2022-23 year in the kindergarten classroom of Stephanie Barnett at Terre Town Elementary in Terre Haute.

“It definitely made a huge impact on me,” said Spice, 21, who is from Vigo County and a North Vigo High School graduate.

Barnett served as her teacher mentor, and Spice learned about setting expectations for students, developing relationships with children and families and experiencing first-hand what it means to be a teacher. She observed, taught and co-taught, the kindergarten students.

She attended parent-teacher conferences, assisted with report cards, was present for holiday celebrations and end-of-year activities.

Spice, who graduated from ISU in May, has already been hired as a first-grade teacher at Terre Town.

“I’m extremely excited,” she said. “I didn’t apply anywhere else because I wanted to stay at Terre Town. I love the school. I love all the people there. I know the staff already, which is definitely a plus.”

And because of her residency and the first-hand knowledge she gained, she believes she is well-prepared to begin her public school teaching career.

The Teacher Residency Grant Pilot Program was created in 2019 by the Indiana General Assembly.

It is state-funded and administered by the Commission for Higher Education.

Modeled after medical residency and apprenticeship programs, teacher residency programs are year-long, paid teaching experiences for student educators who plan on teaching kindergarten through 12th grade.

Student educators teach alongside an experienced mentor teacher, which prepares them for success in the classroom after graduation.

School corporations partner with an Indiana post-secondary institution, which provides resources to the corporations, including program monitoring and evaluation.

The Commission for Higher Education has approved renewal requests for the residency pilot program from 20 school corporations for the 2023-24 school year.

A total of $1,020,000 has been awarded to place and train 68 resident teachers within participating school corporations.

Those districts are developing a pipeline of well-prepared future educators all across Indiana, said Chris Lowery, Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education. “Mentor teachers prepare resident teachers for the challenges they will face in the classroom.”

School corporations are awarded $15,000 for each resident teacher hosted. Funding is used to pay resident and mentor teacher stipends, as well as support costs for post-secondary partners.

Districts designate how much each resident and mentor receives, however, the majority of funds must be applied toward resident teacher stipends.

In Vigo County, residents receive a $10,000 stipend and mentors receive $2,000.

Vigo County Schools Benefit From Grants

Last year, the Vigo County School Corp. — partnering with Indiana State University — received funding for five teacher residents in five elementary schools; this year the partnership has expanded to eight teacher residents in eight elementary schools.

The year-long residency will start with the first teacher work day on August 8 and continue through the last day of the school year, which is May 21, 2024.

Karen Goeller, VCSC deputy superintendent, spoke enthusiastically about the program. “It’s part of the grow-your-own philosophy and trying to tap into some of the excellent talent that is here locally,” which includes ISU education majors who want to stay in Vigo County or other Indiana districts.

It also better aligns college teacher preparation with what actually takes place in schools each day.

The teacher residency extends current student teaching programs, Goeller said. “Schools are eager to take student teachers to a higher level with the teacher residency program and look forward to hiring more experienced college students after they practice in their buildings.”

Teacher residents assist the mentor, co-teach, and solo teach. They attend all required grade level, school or district meetings that require mentor teacher attendance. They also attend professional development sessions.

They also participate in district and building level leadership activities, including discussion forums, school improvement planning, individual leadership projects and sponsorship of academic teams and clubs.

ISU provides training and ongoing support for the residents on topics including school culture, lesson planning, behavior management and school law.

By being involved early in school improvement planning, “They learn from the best about how our excellent teachers are helping students improve learning,” Goeller said.

The teacher residents also face outside work restrictions, she said. The resident teacher will only work the resident teaching assignment. In exchange for this commitment, they receive a $10,000 stipend.

Logansport Schools Gains Three Teachers

Michele Starkey, superintendent at Logansport Community Schools, said of the program, “It’s been wonderful.”

The district, which partners with IU Kokomo, had three participants last year, and all three have been hired as teachers for the upcoming school year.

The district has funding for up to six teacher residents for the coming school year (includes carryover funds from last year).

“We’re going to do it even if there are no grant dollars down the road because it was so beneficial our first year,” said Starkey, Logansport superintendent since 2011. She also received undergraduate and education specialist degrees from ISU.

The teacher residents “get the benefit of seeing the entire school year and developing relationships and rapport with the students,” Starkey said. “They get to see how the teacher begins the year and take part in all professional development we offer.”

When they do their student teaching in the spring, the residents “already know the students and have been able to see them grow and understand where they were and where they are now instead of coming in mid-year,” Starkey said.

The district already has its own two-year teacher mentoring program for educators new to the district, whether those teachers have many years of experience or are brand new.

It also has a Tomorrow’s Teachers program in partnership with IU Kokomo in which high school students can earn four college credits necessary for admission into the college’s teacher education program.

“One of our teacher residents from last year was in our first cohort of Tomorrow’s Teachers,” Starkey said, and now that student has been hired as a teacher for the upcoming school year.

“We haven’t been good about promoting our profession,” Starkey said. Teaching “is a great profession. We have to get better at that, and it’s something we’ve been working on.”

Madison-Grant United School Corp. in Fairmount, a rural district in Grant County, received a $45,000 renewal award for the upcoming school year. It also is partnering with IU Kokomo.

The district had one teacher resident last year, said Steve Vore, assistant superintendent who will begin serving as superintendent July 1.

The program provides great training for those teacher residents, he said. “Any program that is going to support new teachers and increase the volume of new teachers is a great idea,” he said.

They’re Still College Students

Teacher residents are still college students completing their degree, and at ISU, students take college teaching methods courses in the fall and then do student teaching in the spring.

Brad Balch, dean of ISU’s Bayh College of Education, described the teacher residency initiative as “an exceptional program rooted in the belief that education is a profession and professional educators benefit from residencies, apprenticeships and immersion experiences.”

Mentor teachers receive professional development through graduate coursework to make the most of the yearlong experience for the teacher candidates, he said.

ISU also supports teacher residencies in Southwest Parke Community Schools.

Kathy Bauserman, ISU professor in the department of teaching and learning, serves as a program liaison. The university provides monitoring, supervision and evaluation of ISU teacher residents.

Part of ISU’s role “is to support residents and mentor teachers so we can help them navigate any problems or issues that come up,” Bauserman said.

ISU also does observations to make sure students are progressing “and developing into teachers as we expect them to,” she said.

The extra support the teacher residents receive provides a safety net and “gives them the opportunity to thrive and become top notch teachers,” Bauserman said.

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