Gannon University and Erie’s Public Schools have been awarded a planning grant to create a residency program that will better prepare student teachers for the field, and hopefully recruit a more diverse population of students to the program.
Currently, students spend 14-15 weeks in their student teaching classroom, depending on the length of the semester. The residency program will allow students to spend an entire academic school year in the classroom.
“We want to improve the experience for teacher candidates by giving them a longer and more consistent experience in the classroom,” said Janice Whiteman, director of Gannon’s School of Education.
The $75,000 grant will allow a panel of educators, including five administrators and teachers from the Erie public schools, five Gannon School of Education faculty, and two Gannon undergraduate students and one graduate student, to develop the residency plan.
In addition to coursework revision and creation relative to teaching in an urban setting, the panel will determine how to recruit prospective teacher candidates for the program.
Of students who apply for the program, priority will go to those interested in the subjects most needed in Erie public schools and individuals who represent diverse populations.
Some of the subjects needed are special education, science and math.
Currently in Erie public schools there are few teachers who come from diverse backgrounds, but the majority of students in the school district come from diverse backgrounds. Whiteman said the hope is to allow for a greater connection between students and teachers.
Whiteman said she believes this new residency program will help new teachers spend more time connecting with students and learning about them so there is no disconnect once they enter the field. This way, Erie public schools will have a pipeline of qualified teachers who reflect the families and students in the community.
Leighann Forbes, Ed.D., an associate professor at Gannon, will be working alongside teachers in the public schools to develop a mentoring program. This program will identify the qualities mentor teachers should possess in order to support the residents.
These teachers are not used to having a student teacher for more than 15 weeks, so the program will provide training and education efforts to make the partnership as beneficial as possible.
A planning grant is often followed by larger grants in subsequent years that would help both Erie’s Public Schools and Gannon to implement these plans.