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Teach for America looks at Valley districts

Posted: Saturday, Jan 12th, 2013

Courier staff writer

ALAMOSA — Another teacher’s program is considering the Valley, and the Superintendents Advisory Council (SAC) is glad to hear it.

On Tuesday, Teach for America (TFA) Executive Director Sean VanBerschot visited with the SAC to explain the program and its potential purpose in the Valley.

TFA us a natural corps of top college graduates of all academic majors who commit to teach for at least two years in urban and rural public schools, according to program literature. The program recruits diverse recent college graduates and professionals with demonstrated leadership ability to commit to teaching in low-income public schools. After selecting participants, TFA provides intensive training and support allowing teachers to have an immediate positive impact on students and deepen their own understanding of what it takes to dramatically increase student achievement while fostering their leadership as alumni as they work at every level of education and across professional sectors.

“We aim to ensure the greatest education is provided to our children,” VanBerschot said. “It is the same as what you are doing.”

Today the Colorado TFA program has 340 teachers in classroom between Denver and Colorado Springs.

VanBerschot explained that before bringing teachers to the Valley, each district would be asked to share their needs with the TFA so the program could locate the most fitting educators and link them to most appropriate professional learning opportunities.

“What are your expectations?” VanBerschot asked. “We need to know we are supporting your outcomes.”

He added there was also a $2,000 recruitment fee per teacher, which would require the districts form a partnership with TFA, and at least 20 vacant teaching positions are needed to make a Valley TFA program feasible.

Monte Vista School District Superintendent Robert Webb said he felt the program was beneficial, but expressed concerned over whether the teachers would stay in the Valley after their two-year commitment.

Center Consolidated School District Superintendent George Welsh said TFA could jumpstart the new The Boettcher Foundation/Adams State University Teacher Residency Program, which should have master teachers in Valley classrooms in 2015.

“Boettcher is still two years away,” Welsh said. “This might be a good option to bridge us.”

The Boettcher Teacher Residency Program combines research and practices for teacher recruitment, preparation, induction and support in high-needs schools. The participant’s costs are paid in exchange for a five-year commitment, which includes the residency year. The foundation funds the program that mixes traditional and alternative graduate level teacher education. The program includes a yearlong residency with a mentor, ongoing masters level course work and mentoring and coaching support. Many of the courses focus on teaching culturally and linguistically diverse learners and, over the past 10 years, the program has kept 94 percent of its graduates teaching in high-need schools.

ASU plans to see its first residents in August 2013 alongside Center, Alamosa and North Conejos school districts. The three districts have signed up to serve as training districts, which means they will provide about 24 mentors and welcome program teachers for experiential learning.

The SAC decided to explore each district’s teaching needs and contact VanBerschot this spring for further TFA discussions.

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