Three women sit and discuss what they're learning in a teacher preparation program.

5 ways residency programs boost teacher preparation

Residency programs are focusing on teacher shortages and are changing teacher preparation for the better

Across the country, residency programs are growing in popularity to help address teacher shortages and in teacher preparation. These programs provide alternative licensure for educators who are often changing careers to work in high-need schools–particularly in rural communities–and in hard-to-fill subject areas.

While some larger districts may run their own residencies, there are programs, such as the Boettcher Teacher Residency at Public Education & Business Coalition (PEBC), that work with districts of all sizes to support this type of teacher preparation model. In this model, residents have the unique and valuable opportunity to be paired with an experienced mentor teacher for an entire school year.

Related: Do teacher prep programs need an overhaul?

As a former teacher and elementary school principal, and now as the field manager for the Boettcher Teacher Residency where I help support our coaches and residents, I understand the importance of having teachers-in-training receive hands-on experience facilitated by an expert in the field. This provides residents with the tools, training, and support needed for them to be successful in the classroom.

Residencies are key for teacher preparation

Here are five ways residency programs help prepare future teachers:

1. Learning to teach from a teacher
Residencies allow teachers-in-training to work side-by-side in the classroom with a mentor teacher while they complete their licensure coursework. Mentor teachers in our program are experienced teachers spread out across rural, urban, and suburban schools in Colorado who are reflective about their practice and who offer valuable feedback and coaching to their resident teachers.

2. Continuous coaching
It’s so important for residents to be able to self-reflect on their actual classroom teaching and receive continuous feedback. With our residents spread across the state, we use the Edthena video platform to provide expert coaches with a more effective and convenient way to complete classroom observations and provide the valuable feedback needed to help teachers grow. Using video coaching also provides administrators with data to measure the program’s overall effectiveness and adjust as needed.

3. Support to sustain long-term success
Ongoing support is crucial to having teachers both enter and stay in the profession. Residency programs can provide this in various ways. For example, we provide all residents with:

  • A year of mentorship in the classroom with a talented and experienced teacher.
  • Five years of opportunities for professional learning taught by experts who build on teachers’ strengths, while building the skills that are proven to help all students succeed.
  • A lifetime of friendship, sharing, and support from fellow residents, mentors, facilitators, and coaches.

4. Student-centered teaching and learning
There is a difference between instruction focused on teaching and instruction focused on learning. From day one, residents have the opportunity to build relationships with students so they can better understand what students need in order to achieve their learning goals. This will better prepare residents to enter the classroom ready to build on students’ unique strengths while supporting their individual challenges.

5. Proven success
Nationwide, as many as half of all teachers leave the teaching profession within the first three to five years. This happens, in part, because most approaches to preparing teachers aren’t focused on the right things, and not enough educators receive all of the tools and support they need. This isn’t the case with highly-effective residency programs. In fact, 95 percent of the teachers who’ve participated in the Boettcher Teacher Residency are still thriving as educators five or more years into their careers.

A successful teacher residency program involves collaboration between an alternative licensure organization or university, participating schools and districts, and residents. When done right, the payoffs are great – teachers are more attuned to their communities’ needs, successful from day one, and ultimately enjoy a long-lasting career in the profession.

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