New program to recruit and prepare new and more diverse teachers launches - AZEdNews
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New program to recruit and prepare new and more diverse teachers launches

A Teacher In Creighton School District Walks Students To Class. Photo Courtesy Brooke Martinez/ AZEdNews

A new program in Arizona aims to recruit, prepare, support, and retain people interested in becoming K-12 schoolteachers by providing them with in-classroom experience, stipends to help with living expenses, a job at a partner school district and a master’s degree.

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Dr. Victoria Theisen-Homer

“It is no secret that Arizona’s severe and persistent teacher shortage is one of the worst in the nation,” Supt. of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said. “With thousands of vacant teaching positions to thousands more filled by long-term or emergency substitutes our students are paying the price.”

In Arizona, one in four teaching positions is vacant or filled by an adult who does not meet the basic qualifications to teach, and 19% of teachers leave the profession each year compared to 8% nationally, according to Dr. Victoria Theisen-Homer’s report, “A Teacher Chasm in the Grand Canyon State” released in June 2021.

The Arizona Teacher Residency, a two-year graduate program modeled after medical residencies, was announced yesterday by Supt. Hoffman, the Arizona Department of Education and Northern Arizona University at a news conference Monday at Encanto Elementary School in Phoenix.

“Educators and policy experts have long stressed the need to prepare teachers like you prepare doctors with rigorous, hands-on,  graduate-level training so that they are adequately prepared for the challenging and critical work of teaching,” Supt. Hoffman said. “A hallmark of medical training is the residency where the aspiring practitioner learns under the guidance of a skilled mentor before practicing on their own.”

“Over the last 20 years, programs across the United States have taken cues from the medical field and established thriving teacher residencies, where graduate students are paired with experienced supervising teachers in classrooms for an entire year before they become teachers of record,” Supt. Hoffman said.

The Arizona K12 Center at Northern Arizona University was awarded a $5 million grant by the Arizona Department of Education from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund to design, launch and expand the Arizona Teacher Residency in response to the state’s teacher shortage and high teacher turnover rate.

New program to recruit and prepare new and more diverse teachers launches Osborn-Supt.-Michael-Robert-400
Osborn Elementary Supt. Dr. Michael Robert

“This is not a quick fix to Arizona’s teacher shortage, but it is the right step. Quick fixes rarely have a lasting impact. I’ve wanted a teacher residency in this state for over 10 years because I believe in its potential to transform the teaching profession,” said Dr. Kathy Wiebke, a National Board Certified Teacher and executive director of the Arizona K12 Center.

“The teacher shortage conversation often begins with numbers, but it’s not just the numbers that we need. It’s a teacher who’s well prepared, best prepared for the students they will face from day one. That’s our obligation to children” said Dr. Michael Robert, superintendent of Osborn Elementary School District during a news conference on Monday. 

The Arizona Teacher Residency prepares recent college graduates from any degree program and mid-career switchers to be effective classroom teachers through a two-week summer institute, followed by a year of in-school apprenticeship under a supervising teacher before they become the teacher-of-record in the program’s second year.

“We must do our best to meet the children of the now and the future of Arizona with a corps of teachers wanting and willing to work in a diverse changing state and changing world,” said Supt. Robert, who served as principal of Encanto Elementary for 10 years before becoming superintendent in 2017. “We need this well-prepared workforce apprenticing with the best teachers that we have now, so the best practices and methods are handed off to the next generation of teachers for our student’s sake.”

Arizona Teacher Residents will complete graduate coursework throughout the two years and, upon completion, receive a master’s degree from Northern Arizona University. Along with this highly subsidized master’s degree, residents receive a living stipend during the residency year and receive a salary from the district during the year as the teacher-of-record. In exchange, residents commit to serving in partner districts for at least three years beyond their residency year.

Related article:
New report calls for creating a teacher residency in Arizona to combat turnover in the classroom

“Through this extended fieldwork, and the master’s degree coursework that revolves around this experience, residents truly learn what it means to develop and sustain themselves as teachers,” Supt. Hoffman said. “As a result, residencies have a strong track record of advancing teacher retention, and student achievement, too. Now is the time to establish a teacher residency program as another meaningful solution to addressing our teacher shortage in Arizona.”

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“A Teacher Chasm in the Grand Canyon State: Assessing Arizona’s Educational Landscape and Potential of a Teacher Residency” report cover

People interested in the Arizona Teacher Residency can apply starting this winter to begin the program in the summer of 2022. For the first year, the Arizona Teacher Residency will partner with Title 1 elementary school districts in the Phoenix area with plans to expand to high schools and rural areas in the future.

Dr. Victoria Theisen-Homer is the founding director of the Arizona Teacher Residency as a part of the Arizona K12 Center at Northern Arizona University. Dr. Theisen-Homer’s report “A Teacher Chasm in the Grand Canyon State,” published in 2021 and co-funded by Helios Education Foundation and the Arizona Community Foundation, explores the teacher shortage in Arizona and how a teacher residency program can help address some of those challenges. She is also the author of the book Learning to Connect: Relationships, Race, and Teacher Education, which focuses on teacher residencies elsewhere.

“The implications of the teacher shortage are profound, for both students and for the future of our state, as teachers have more influence over students’ academic and life outcomes than any other school-level factor,” said Dr. Theisen-Homer. “A teacher residency program can fill the needs gap to drastically improve how Arizona recruits, prepares, supports, and retains high quality teachers for our local schools.”

“Arizona is ripe for a teacher residency,” said Dr. Theisen-Homer. “We need more highly qualified and caring teachers, more teachers who look like their students, and more teachers who will stay in the classroom. We’re really excited to build a program that honors and serves our state’s diverse communities.”

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AZ Supt. of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman

Learn more about the Arizona Teacher Residency at

“We can talk all day about how students can recover from the effects of the pandemic, but without experienced educators to support them those efforts will be hampered,” Supt. Hoffman said. “While we’ve moved in the right direction through efforts like establishing the first ever Educator Recruitment and Retention Team at the Arizona Department of Education, continued support of educator prep programs and investing heavily in teacher mentoring, we must do more to elevate and respect the teaching profession if we are to recruit and retain educators in the long term.”

The Arizona Teacher Residency “will recruit, prepare, support and retain more high-quality teachers starting in our communities of greatest need,” said Supt. Hoffman, noting that the program will focus on recruiting and retaining more highly qualified teachers for Title I schools, “especially teachers of color and teachers for hard to staff positions like special education and STEM.”

People interested in the Arizona Teacher Residency can apply starting this winter to begin the program in the summer of 2022. For the first year, the Arizona Teacher Residency will partner with Title I elementary school districts in the Phoenix area with plans to expand to high schools and rural areas in the future.

“Although this program will start with a few districts in the Phoenix area, it will soon be piloted in rural areas so we can support a larger portion of Arizona with the high-quality teachers that this program will prepare,” Supt. Hoffman said.

Northern Arizona University President José Luis Cruz Rivera addressed the power education has to transform our state.

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Northern Arizona University President José Luis Cruz Rivera

The Arizona Teacher Residency program “leverages NAU’s commitment to the teaching profession in Arizona,” said Dr. Cruz Rivera.

“We have a long history of preparing excellent teachers, who are not only the best at ensuring that our students get the education that they need, but who are also very much committed to ensuring that through their efforts they eliminate educational inequities and eliminate opportunity gaps,” Dr. Cruz Rivera said.

The residency also helps lower the financial barriers that prevent some from entering teacher preparation programs, Dr. Cruz Rivera said.

“Access to education is the great equalizer in mobility, and a high-quality teacher is the largest influence in any child’s educational achievement,” Dr. Cruz Rivera said. “NAU is proud to build on the accomplishments of diversifying our teaching force and attracting individuals to this wonderful profession by adding the teacher residency program through the grant provided by the Arizona Department of Education today.”

Teacher residencies are a strong model for boosting teacher retention. According to the Learning Policy Institute, 70 to 80% of residency graduates are still in the classroom after five years. Teacher residencies also successfully recruit a more racially diverse teaching force.

While 80% of our nation’s teachers are white, 62% of residents affiliated with the National Center for Teacher Residencies identify as people of color.  Teacher residencies also boost student achievement. A study of the Boston Teacher Residency found that over time, graduates of the program advance student achievement more than their counterparts from other programs.

“Teacher residency programs intentionally recruit teachers who reflect and understand the students they serve, including more men and people of color, helping to further diversify the teaching profession,” Dr. Cruz Rivera said.

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Arizona K12 Center’s Dr. Kathy Wiebke

The Arizona K12 Center at Northern Arizona University will provide additional professional learning opportunities and support to residents and continue that support with new teacher induction and mentoring opportunities beyond the residency’s two years.

“We know that research demonstrates that those teachers prepared in a residency model outperform their peers and stay longer,” said Dr. Wiebke. “What will set the Arizona Teacher Residency apart from others is the involvement of the Arizona K12 Center.”

“Residents will have access to highly trained and effective instructional mentors to help support their first days and months as a teacher,” Wiebke said. “Once they graduate, they will continue to have the support of the Arizona K12 Center, including professional learning focused on high-leverage teaching practices as well as a community of exceptional teachers.”

“What excites me most about this program is that a resident will be in the classroom from the first days to the last days of school,” Wiebke said. “To often pre-service teachers only go through a small segment of the teaching experience before being thrust into their own classroom.”

“Second, we know that students gain more confidence and do better academically when they have teachers that look like them. This program takes a big step in addressing the diversity gap in teaching,” Wiebke said.

“And finally, the ability to build a profession with tools and resources we know that work. We know that teachers stay in the profession longer when they have regular interactions with their colleagues and administrators as well as high quality professional learning and instructional mentoring,” Wiebke said.

New program to recruit and prepare new and more diverse teachers launches Creighton-Teacher-and-Students-100-HP
A teacher in Creighton School District walks students to class. Photo courtesy Brooke Martinez/ AZEdNews