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Innovative partnership creates urban teaching residency program in Rochester schools

Partnership creates urban teaching residency progra

A new partnership between the Warner School of Education, Nazareth University and the Rochester City School District will bring a first-of-its-kind urban teaching fellowship program to Rochester. The ROC Urban Teaching Fellows Program is based on a teacher residency model, an innovative solution that will ease the teacher shortage in Rochester while giving future educators hands-on classroom experience, mentorship and employment. It is open to Warner School adolescent and inclusive education students, and to Nazareth inclusive childhood students.  

Fellows are hired by the school district under a three-year contract, paid a salary with benefits, and provided $10,000 toward college tuition. The program is designed like a medical residency, and during their first year, teacher candidates who are accepted into the program will work for a full school year in Rochester school classrooms side-by-side with an experienced mentor while simultaneously completing a master's degree that leads to teacher certification. After successful completion of their first year, ROC Urban Teaching Fellows will spend the next two years leading their own classrooms within the city school district. 

“We know from research and experience that when residents work intensively with young people, mentor teachers and other educators in their schools, all benefit significantly,” said Kevin Meuwissen, chair of teaching and curriculum. “It adds value for everyone. And it does so in a way that encourages successful entry into teaching, not by watering down teacher education, but by making it more affordable, more powerful, and more responsive to the Rochester community’s needs.”

The program is already underway at the Children’s School of Rochester No. 15, Francis Parker School No. 23, and East High School. It includes three fellows from the Warner School and three from Nazareth. The plan is to expand to 10 fellows from each graduate program. Anjoli Moise, a doctoral student at Warner, is coordinating fellowship program activities in schools with program partners. Savanna Elk, Jane Pritchard and Katelyn Webb are the current Warner fellows.

Sarah Peyre, dean of the Warner School, said teacher residency programs further define Warner’s commitment to teacher preparation programs and to the community. “Our focus is providing a teacher education experience where our graduates are prepared to thrive in their classrooms and to lead in their schools. The ROC Urban Teaching Fellows program is the first of similar programs to come that will showcase the talent of our faculty and graduates. We have an obligation to address the growing demand for teachers and to do so in creative ways that provide impact in each community’s K-12 classrooms.”

The New York State Education Department expects New York State to need 180,000 new teachers in the next decade. Residency programs are expected to help the state meet this need, and Gov. Kathy Hochul has committed $30 million in state funds to create new teacher residency partnerships between K-12 districts and universities.

“I am excited to help bring this program to the City of Rochester,” said Carmine Peluso, interim superintendent of the Rochester City School District. “Districts across the country are faced with teacher shortages, and we now have a unique opportunity to bring diverse candidates from our own backyard into our district.  These fellows are receiving embedded mentoring, access to our award-winning Career in Teaching program, and health and dental benefits.”

The district will pay each student’s $10,000 tuition benefit and teacher salary through American Rescue Plan funding. The Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation, a generous donor to the program, is providing additional funds for planning, staffing support and program implementation. In turn, the school district will address high-need teacher shortage areas, including special education at all grade levels, Spanish bilingual education, mathematics and science education, and Career and Technical Education.

“What is so innovative about ROC Urban Teaching Fellows is the close collaboration among our two schools of education and the Rochester City School District to design teaching candidates’ preparation as they enter the profession,” said Nazareth’s School of Education Dean Kate DaBoll-Lavoie. “The preparation melds mentored co-teaching experiences in schools with college coursework, and the financial support allows Fellows to be in classrooms daily across the entire school year while simultaneously completing a master’s degree leading to teacher certification. Research shows that these types of programs lead to greater teacher retention, an additional critical component.”

Participation in the ROC Urban Teaching Fellows Program is based on a competitive application process. Students must apply to the Warner School’s teacher preparation program first, and then through a complementary selection process for the fellows program.