2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Teaching Residents Grace Sierra and Julie Hirsch

GETTING ACQUAINTED Teaching Residents Grace Sierra and Julie Hirsch.

CROSS COHORT COLLABORATIONS

CROSS COHORT COLLABORATIONS Teaching Residents (left to right) Oliver Cannell, Richard Park, Naomi Sharlin, Andrea Wilches (a Peace Corps Fellow), Paul McCourt and Lesley Crawford listen to a presentation at a welcome luncheon for Teaching Residents and Peace Corps Fellows.

The College welcomes the TR@TC, its new urban teaching residents program

In May, a group of twenty students, eager to make a difference in urban education, arrived at TC as the first cohort of Teaching Residents@Teachers College (TR@TC). Until July 2011, TR@TC residents will apprentice with experienced teachers at high-needs schools, earn a master's degree, and commit to teaching for at least three additional years in a New York City public school.

A. Lin Goodwin, Associate Dean of Teacher Education and Professor of Education, says the program "allows us to build on and expand the excellent practices we've been engaged in here at TC for many years--integrating clinical experience with coursework--which we know make a real difference in teacher preparation."

The program was funded last fall by a $9.75 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, where Secretary Arne Duncan has pressed for more hands-on classroom experience in the nation's teacher preparation programs. Goodwin, who helped launch the program, said TR@TC will deliver a total of 180 certified teachers to urban communities over the next five years. It is also designed to produce new knowledge about innovative approaches to teacher preparation and classroom practices that work.

Participants will emerge from the 14-month master's program with New York State initial certification to teach in one of three, specialized programs--Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), Intellectual Disabilities-Autism, or Teaching Students with Disabilities (Secondary Inclusive Education). Each resident will be required to teach for at least three more years in a high-needs New York City urban school. The program focuses on the secondary grades, where the need for qualified teachers is greatest.

Along with coursework, residents started their summer with school observations that exposed them to a variety of classroom situations and allowed them to begin building relationships with teachers and principals. In their first year, they will work side-by-side in a classroom with an experienced teacher committed to helping them succeed. In another effort to build learning communities, residents meet weekly as a group for workshops and instruction. The program also stresses deep content knowledge in the residents' area of expertise, and it incorporates digital tools and technologies to expand the learning process.

From newly minted college graduates to a former restauranteur, the new Teaching Residents come from widely diverse backgrounds and walks of life.

Naomi Sharlin, a May graduate of Bryn Mawr with a bachelor's degree in linguistics, took education classes and spent time at a high school in West Philadelphia while she was a college student. The self-described "university brat" from Madison, Wisconsin (both her parents are on the faculty at the state university) said she has enjoyed her class at TC in the history of urban education. "I've been aware of the problems of public schools, especially in cities, but it's humbling to see how long these problems have gone on," she said.

Lesley Crawford, who studied fine arts at Hobart and William Smith College, was an assistant with the Children's Program at The Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Colorado, a video editor for Showtime in New York, and a volunteer with Americorps in San Jose, California, working with teens at risk for dropping out of school. The East Lyme, Connecticut native said the residency program was "quite a departure from what I was doing previously," but that her experience with digital technology would be an asset in the classroom. "It's exciting because it's relevant, it's what's going on now," she said.

Paul McCourt dropped out of the State University of New York at Fredonia in the late 1970s to start a restaurant in nearby Oneonta, then worked in the financial industry, for a time as head of human resources for the New York Mercantile Exchange. He came to TC in 2009, first to study elementary education, before transferring to the Teaching Residents program to prepare to teach children with special needs. "I find it challenging in ways that I just happen to be interested in," McCourt said of the program. "I think it's something that currently… needs people committed to it."

Richard Park, who grew up on Staten Island, also defected from Wall Street, where he worked as an analyst for a small hedge fund after graduating from TC in 2005 with a master's degree in economics and education. "I am very excited to be back," Park said at an introductory luncheon for participants in May. The financial services industry's nosedive and resulting recession "were probably the best thing that happened to me."

Whether they are recent college graduates or career changers, "in addition to being articulate and generous, they are making a fierce commitment to high-needs schools and urban education," Goodwin says of the inaugural cohort. TR@TC will hold information sessions for prospective applicants on July 12 and August 9, at 4 p.m. in Russell Hall Room 400.

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