Newswise — On Sept. 26, 2019, the College of Education at The University of Texas at El Paso and community leaders unveiled the Miner Teacher Residency Program, a full-year teacher placement designed to boost the readiness of aspiring teachers to better serve diverse students throughout the El Paso region.
With funding and technical support from University-School Partnerships for Renewal of Educator Preparation (US PREP), a national center funded by the Gates Foundation committed to high-quality university-based teacher preparation, UTEP is working with local school districts to pilot an innovative teacher preparation program within the College of Education. Students seeking a teaching degree will now be eligible to take part in a one-year teaching residency program where they will spend an entire year in a real classroom, co-teaching with an experienced mentor teacher and engaged in an immersive coaching model led by field-based UTEP College of Education faculty members. This will provide these aspiring teachers with the hands-on training and classroom management skills they’ll need before entering the workforce.
“This pilot effort is an incredibly important opportunity to provide student teachers with the most realistic, relevant and rigorous preparation possible,” said Clifton Tanabe, Ph.D., dean of the College of Education. “We think this will be a game changer for our students and for the schools that hire them as first year teachers. Given the ‘closed loop’ educational ecosystem in El Paso – UTEP graduates comprise 75 percent of El Paso’s teachers, and El Paso students comprise 80 percent of UTEP’s student body – we expect this program to have a profound long-term impact.”
Aspiring teachers who go through the residency program will be part of an exciting paid internship initiative funded by Workforce Solutions Borderplex, the Council on Regional Economic Expansion and Educational Development (CREEED), and the El Paso Community Foundation.
“Our partnership with these generous local organizations will allow our students to focus completely on their training and not have to work the graveyard shift, after working in the schools all day, just to make ends meet,” Tanabe said.
Nineteen UTEP College of Education students will make up the first cohort participating in the residency program. They will be placed within El Paso ISD and Socorro ISD classrooms and paired with seasoned and effective teachers to mentor them through their year-long program. The goal is to have all participants gain extended, hands-on practical teaching experience alongside highly qualified, trained mentor teachers and UTEP faculty members, as well as priority consideration for full-time employment after they complete their residency.
"UTEP is a wonderful partner with EPISD in the development and training of innovative educators for the El Paso and West Texas region,” said EPISD Superintendent Juan Cabrera. “The Miner Teacher Residency Program will further our combined efforts to provide the children of the border with the best-prepared corps of teachers who will use the latest research-based techniques to help our students meet their academic goals."
"Team SISD is proud to be part of this innovative program to further invest in our future educators," said SISD Superintendent José Espinoza, Ed.D. "Our commitment is to ensure SISD has highly qualified and effective teachers, and we provide numerous opportunities for aspiring teachers to succeed thanks to powerful partnerships, such as this one, with UTEP and other local organizations and agencies dedicated to improving our overall educational community in El Paso."
The new initiative replaces UTEP’s previous semester-long teacher training program with more intensive year-long placements in high-performing local elementary schools. It is based on the model pioneered in 2015 by US PREP, which has been utilized by programs at Texas Tech University in Lubbock and the University of Houston, among others.
“CREEED was happy to facilitate the partnership between UTEP and US PREP earlier this year, and we are delighted to be supporting the new teacher residency program,” said Amy O’Rourke, Choose to Excel Director at CREEED. “To improve education outcomes and increase educational attainment in our region, we must invest in our teachers and aspiring teachers so they have the tools, training and experience they need to lead students in innovative and transformative classroom instruction.”
After the success of this pilot program, UTEP hopes to incorporate the full year of hands-on, in-classroom training as part of all future teacher graduate requirements.
“The further you go in education, the better your professional prospects; it’s that simple,” said Joyce Wilson, president and CEO of the Workforce Solutions Borderplex. “If we want to attract high-paying jobs with advancement opportunities to El Paso, we need a workforce with the requisite level of training. That starts in elementary school with well-trained and experienced teachers.”
Student teachers under the semester approach and in the residency program will benefit from close supervision and regular feedback from teachers who will serve as their mentors and supervisors, all of whom were recruited, selected and trained by UTEP. In addition, each elementary school hosting residency students will also host two full-time clinical faculty members to serve as site coordinators and liaisons between UTEP and the school districts.
“We are excited to bring the proven US PREP model for teaching training to El Paso,” said Stephanie Otero, vice president of operations of The El Paso Community Foundation. “The additional staff UTEP has hired to support the program will enhance communication, collaboration and data sharing between the university and the school districts, making for a better experience for student teachers and better outcomes in their classrooms.”
Like the students they teach, most of the student teachers in the Miner Teacher Residency Program are Latinx and bilingual. A committee made up of college and district representatives selected the finalists from a pool of 40 applicants based on GPA, faculty input, and the candidates’ openness to learn and seek feedback.