Denver – The Denver Public Schools (DPS) is forging a groundbreaking partnership with two local universities to invest in aspiring teachers’ education while they are still earning an undergraduate teaching degree. College seniors at Metropolitan State University at Denver and the University of Colorado Denver who are working toward a bachelor’s degree and teaching license will have the opportunity to become student teacher residents in a DPS school for a full year under the mentorship of a master teacher. This greatly strengthens the practical learning experience for aspiring teachers in their final year as an undergraduate. The partnership will present an opportunity for student teachers to work directly with a veteran DPS teacher for the year, receiving critical support, mentorship and feedback during their senior year of college before becoming a first year teacher.
The program, called the Denver Student Teacher Residency (STR), will be the first program of its kind in any city in America that DPS is aware of to unite a school system and university partners to provide this type of intensive residency experience for students in their final year of college. The aims of STR will be to better support and train new teachers in an effort to better prepare them for DPS classrooms, leading to more successful new teachers and increased teacher retention. After their year of the residency, student teachers will graduate from college and receive priority hiring status for a full-time job in the Denver Public Schools. By offering a full-year opportunity in a single classroom with a paired mentor teacher, the STR will offer a longer, more sustained, and more focused learning opportunity than traditional student teaching opportunities.
“Teaching is a very complex and challenging – and very rewarding – job. The better we can prepare aspiring teachers with real-world, actual classroom teaching experience, mentored by a carefully selected master teacher, the more successful new teachers will be,” said DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg. “I am very grateful to Metropolitan State University and CU Denver for partnering with us to develop and grow this innovative approach and to the Rose Community Foundation for its generous support to launch the program.”
“This program will provide us with a unique opportunity to work hand-in-hand with our university partners to ‘grow our own’ within the context of our diverse classrooms so that we can meet our shared goals for student growth and learning,” Boasberg added. “With 50 percent of new teachers exiting the teaching profession within their first five years, we must increase our focus on teacher preparation and retention. By being so much better prepared, I believe our first-year teachers will find more success and joy during those critical first years of teaching and stay longer in the profession.”
STR is modeled after the proven success of Denver Teacher Residency, a program that provides a pipeline for professionals in other industries to pursue a career in teaching while earning a master’s degree from the University of Denver. Through DTR, the Denver Public Schools has hired 205 teachers to teach in hard-to-fill teaching positions such as math, special education and English-language acquisition. The program, in its fourth year, has demonstrated strong results, with DTR teachers outperforming novice teachers year-over-year, which is why DPS believes this format for teacher preparation will have a positive impact on the success of college students preparing to become teachers.
“The first year as a teacher is one of the most challenging stages in an educator’s career,” said Joel Leavins, former DTR participant and current teacher at McMeen Elementary. “Given how much DTR benefitted me as a new teacher, I think that having this kind of additional support and mentorship during the critical college years is a tremendous opportunity to help to ensure a smoother transition for our new teachers.”
Once new teachers are hired at DPS, they experience a variety of supports, from mentoring and professional learning courses to classroom observations and feedback, that help them learn to engage students, deliver challenging content and tailor instruction for diverse learners so that they achieve their full potential as effective teachers.
“We are pleased to partner with DPS in this innovative new program, which we see as an opportunity to provide focus in preparing teachers for success in urban schools. Schools where the majority of MSU Denver students have graduated from,” said Dr. Stephen M. Jordan, President of MSU Denver.
“As the largest graduate school of education in Colorado, CU Denver’s School of Education & Human Development (SEHD) looks forward to expanding the options available to our undergraduates through the Student Teacher Residency with DPS,” said Rebecca Kantor, Dean of the School. "This new venture will significantly enhance our rich 20-plus year history of partnering with DPS to prepare exceptional urban teachers. It will allow our candidates to be immersed in strong DPS classrooms for even more time, gain their added endorsement in linguistically diverse education, and it will allow SEHD to more deeply partner with district leaders around the development of curriculum that is context-specific to DPS.”