By Beth Barrett, Director of Teacher Residency and AP English Teacher at Alpha: Cindy Avitia
March 9, 2020
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I attended the University of Michigan as an English major. I volunteered in schools and was really interested in working with children from low-income communities faced with educational inequalities and disparity. Even though I had already acquired my teaching credential, I joined Teach for America so that I could gain a new professional and personal network to broaden my horizon and explore new areas. I was placed in Houston, Texas, where I taught in a large, comprehensive high school. From there I decided to move to California. I just so happened to be grading papers one day with friends from another charter, when they informed me that there was an opening for an English Teacher at KIPP San Jose Collegiate. I applied and became the Founding English Teacher for 3 years and then was an Assistant Principal there for another 7 years. At the end of that experience, I knew that my path wasn’t school leadership but I enjoyed the coaching and mentoring component of the role. This is how I ended up as the Residency Director: it draws on my years of teaching experience coupled with the opportunity to help novice teachers grow and reach their goals.
What is the residency program?
Alpha has had a residency program for five years. The key difference now is we are partnered with Alder GSE, which allows our residents to fast-track their career where they can earn their Master’s Degree and preliminary Teaching Credential in just one year.
The biggest question I get from people is what’s the difference between a residency and a Master’s of Education? Why wouldn’t I just take the Master’s of Ed route? It is a year of graduate school combined with an apprenticeship model where the resident is a co-teacher and a partner teacher from the very first day, compared to the traditional student teaching model where there is much less hands-on experience.
I think this opportunity is perfect for someone who just recently graduated from college, who may have majored in other fields and now wants to get into education. Alpha provides a stipend of $20,000 and tuition is about $18 – $19,000. Because residents are considered graduate students, they will be eligible for financial aid and health insurance through Alder GSE.
What does a day in the life of a resident look like?
Three times a month, there is a day dedicated to professional development in their cohort. Once a month starting in September, mentor teachers will be attending their designated PD and thus provide residents with an opportunity to conduct a half day of teaching completely on their own!
On a day-to-day basis, residents are pulling small groups, setting expectations for assignments and procedures, attending IEP meetings, and getting lots of feedback from their mentors and other teachers. It is a very collaborative model that allows for real-time coaching.
What does support for the residents look like?
Mentorship happens at different levels. Residents will be getting direct, daily feedback from their mentor teachers who are working with them every single day. My role, as the Director, is to provide feedback as well, answer any questions that may come up, and ultimately ensure that I am doing all that I can to help our residents reach their goal, which is to become a Teacher of Record at Alpha.
What does relationship building look like?
We will be holding residency dinners at the beginning and end of the year. There will also be lots of opportunities for everyone to get to know each other. The goal is to have all mentor teachers and residents to cross mingle and share best practices. If anyone is curious about a particular grade level and content area, they are welcome to come in and observe at any time. We’ve built a strong network of support at every level to ensure the resident feels ready to take on each step.
We only have a total of 10 spots to fill for next year and we have a wonderful team of mentor teachers who are knowledgeable and so excited to take on the role of coaches to help build the next generation of Alpha teachers. To learn more about our residency program, visit our website https://www.alphapublicschools.org/residency-at-alder-gse/.
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