By Thalia Nawi

Denver is on the leading edge of a national movement in teacher preparation—one that is has the potential to transform our classrooms and unlock a key to success in our schools.

The Denver Teacher Residency (DTR), a partnership between Denver Public Schools (DPS), the Janus Education Alliance and the University of Denver’s Morgridge College of Education, represents a truly innovative approach to developing talented and committed teachers who can reach our highest-needs students. The program heightens the district’s effort to identify and cultivate skilled teachers from every walk of life—drawing on their diverse backgrounds, their wide-ranging lives and career paths, and their extensive abilities—to bring new vision and vitality to the classroom.

Some participants are fresh from higher education; most have come to the program after successful careers in other fields. The 2011-12 class of residents includes a former airline pilot, an engineer, and a published author; several are multilingual and have taught abroad. Each brings a unique life story and a wealth of perspective and experience to the program. What they all have in common is an aptitude for teaching and a singular dedication to enriching the lives of our community’s children.

Underway since 2009, Denver was the first district in the nation to develop a teacher residency program. DTR offers, as one resident put it, a “balance between practical experience, coursework and reflection.” The program’s participants, chosen through a competitive selection process, enter a rigorous program that provides the tools they’ll need to be effective in the classroom from day one.

Participants are paired with mentor teachers through their entire residency year, who give them hands-on training in classrooms serving a variety of high-needs students. They concurrently enroll in a master’s degree program in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Denver that is tailored to meet the unique needs of the district and its students. Once participants complete their residency year, they are offered a contract to teach in DPS and apply for a CO state initial teaching license.

After three successful years in the classroom, they are eligible for a CO state professional teaching license. Residents also receive a $10,000 stipend during the residency year and in years two through five of the program earn a full-time teacher’s salary. They are fully reimbursed for tuition toward their master’s degree after the completion of year five.

We channel DTR participants into our greatest needs areas: elementary education in English and/or Spanish; special education in English and/or Spanish, and secondary education in math or science.

The strong instructional and financial support provided to program participants reflects DPS’s urgent need for a new approach to cultivating teachers. Like other large, urban school districts around the country, Denver faces distinct challenges, including meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse student population and reducing high teacher turnover. Nearly 50 percent of new teachers nationwide leave in their first five years, citing lack of preparation as the number one reason.

Visit our website (http://www.denverteacherresidency.org/) and you’ll see testimonials from program residents and alumni who underscore the pivotal role the program plays in preparing them for the needs of Denver students. You’ll read their accounts, as well, about how the structure and substance of Denver Teacher Residency have empowered them to help a diverse group of students achieve their potential.

We are excited about the impact this endeavor will have on the teaching profession, not only by fostering new talent for the next generation of teachers in Denver, but also by helping set the pace for schools throughout the country. Without a doubt, it’s an unconventional approach to recruiting and preparing teachers. That’s exactly what we need—to reach outside conventional channels and tap talent that truly belongs in front of a class but might not be able to make the leap without an opportunity like this one.

We want to help the right people develop the teacher within them—so they can start impacting the lives of children and communities within Denver.

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DTR is looking for program applicants! Applications are due on February 10. Please go to http://www.denverteacherresidency.org/ for more information.

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