NAU’s new graduate teacher residency program hopes to tackle state teacher shortage

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – Arizona has faced a teacher shortage for years, but that doesn’t stop prospective teachers from wanting to be in the classroom. There is a new residency program to help better prepare our future teachers!

The Arizona Department of Education has partnered with Northern Arizona University to create the Arizona Teacher Residency, the state’s first official graduate teacher residency program modeled after medical residencies. “These residents benefit from a full year of pre-employment preparation and classroom experience in a supportive environment before they even become a tenured teacher. So there is a much longer track before they enter class than what you see in other programs,” Victoria Theisen-Homer, director of the Arizona Teacher Residency, said.

Nearly two dozen aspiring teachers are participating in this new program where they earn a master’s degree in education from NAU, a full scholarship, stipend, and years of mentorship. “They just have a wealth of people they can draw on for years to come,” Theisen-Homer said.

One of the 23 resident teachers is Hector Campos who is back in his junior high social studies class with his former teacher. “As an educator, it’s amazing to know that your words, your lessons that you have had enough of an impact on someone to make them want to join the profession which is not an easy profession”, Edgar Ochoa, a junior high social studies teacher at Ed and Verma Pastor Elementary School, said.

After learning and growing in Ochoa’s class this school year, Campos will be in his own class next year. “I really want to be a teacher. I think it’s a great job, especially with students who need that support, who need that model,” Campos said. Once residents have earned their tuition-free master’s degree, they must work an additional two years to fulfill their commitment.

The goal of the program is to give residents like Campos a solid teaching foundation so they stay in the profession. “Our teacher turnover is higher than in any other state and so what we’re seeing here is an issue not only of recruitment but also of retention, so our program addresses that by preparing teachers to stay in the classroom,” said Victoria Theisen-Homer.

Campos says he is ready to stay in class for years and looks forward to doing so at the school he attended. “With my name and my story here at school already, I’m already having an impact so I think I’m going to be a teacher, maybe something higher, that’s to be determined, but I definitely want to be a teacher for a good during this time,” Campos said.

The goal is to expand the program next school year with up to 40 residents. To learn more about the program, click here.

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