The National Center for Teacher Residencies (NCTR) recently gathered educators and nonprofit leaders from across the country for a site visit at the University of St. Thomas School of Education. The School of Education is a network partner of NCTR, which is committed to developing, launching, supporting, and accelerating the impact of teacher residency programs.
The site visit was sponsored by the Cargill Foundation with the goal of researching how to most effectively recruit, prepare and retain teachers of color in Minnesota. Participants convened at St. Thomas over three days to learn how the School of Education and its district partners are creating culturally and linguistically sustaining environments for teacher residents so that they are prepared to work in diverse Minnesota schools and communities. Participants enjoyed panels led by faculty and current residents; a keynote address by Dr. Yohuru Williams, founding director of the Racial Justice Initiative at St. Thomas, on the national context of racial inequities and how educators can be challengers and disrupters of systems; equity class observations; and discussions led by leaders at Minneapolis and Saint Paul Public Schools.
The School of Education and its district partners are national leaders in developing teacher residencies, evidenced by the fact that the NCTR site visit was the second to St. Thomas in less than a year.
“Our residencies with Saint Paul Public Schools, Minneapolis Public Schools, and charter schools in Minnesota are highly integrated and function collaboratively,” said Shelley Neilsen Gatti, associate professor of special education and director of the residency program. “We have spent lots of time collaborating and problem-solving with school districts to implement our partner teacher residencies.”
Robust recruitment and retention efforts within the program have resulted in new teacher candidates who represent the communities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, with at least 60% of residency students identifying as BIPOC. Additionally, NCTR CEO Dr. Kathlene Holmes Campbell, former dean of the School of Education and current member of the St. Thomas Board of Trustees, recently reported that the St. Thomas residency program at Minneapolis Public Schools has one of the highest retention rates of all residencies in the country.
The St. Thomas teacher residency model is a district-serving teacher preparation program that pairs a rigorous full-year classroom apprenticeship with master’s-level education content. This model provides residents with theory of effective teaching and 1,200 hours of student teaching alongside an effective mentor teacher who receives professional development.
Teacher residencies are a proven strategy to increase teacher diversity, effectiveness and retention while increasing opportunities and student achievement for students. Grants are available to districts and students to help mitigate costs for future teachers, including the National Center for Teacher Residencies Black Educators Initiative grant, the U.S. Department of Education Teacher Quality Preparation grant, the State of Minnesota Mentor grant, and most recently a U.S. Department of Education Supporting Effective Educators Development (SEED) grant.
“As we planned the visit, we tried to showcase all the work we’re doing at St. Thomas to reduce barriers to becoming a teacher and to create communities for all of our students to learn and grow around their own cultural and racial journey,” said Neilsen Gatti. “The work we’ve done with residencies has had a ripple effect both in the school districts we partner with and at St. Thomas. We are learning and growing together.”