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NewsMar 30, 2018

Teacher residencies start in the classroom

After 40 years, Lesley continues to see success with immersive internships.

children playing cards and learning from their teacher

By Georgia Sparling

When Sarah Fincke decided to go back to school to become a teacher, she went way back…to her high school.

Fincke, a graduate of Berwick Academy in Maine, returned to her alma mater as a teaching apprentice through Lesley’s collaborative teacher training. The program, more than four decades old, immerses would-be elementary, middle and high school teachers in a school during their one-year master’s program.

“I can’t imagine not having done a program like this and just doing the degree work and going into my own classroom,” said Fincke, who graduated from Lesley’s Collaborative Internship Program 2017 and now teaches in Connecticut. “The program was an exciting and stimulating opportunity to work alongside seasoned teaching professionals and develop my passion for working with adolescents. Having the opportunity to experience all facets of school life - teaching, coaching and advising - prepared me well for a career in teaching."

Despite Lesley’s long history with teacher residencies, the majority of such programs are quite new, and only around 50 teacher residency programs exist in the United States, according to the Learning Policy Institute.

While there is not much data on residencies, research does demonstrate that graduates of such programs tend to stay in their roles longer than other novice teachers, and that their students perform better on standardized tests.

“They stay because they’ve had such a strong foundation,” says Margaret Szegvari, director of teacher training at Pike School, one of Lesley's partner schools.

Hands-on learning

Teaching programs traditionally include short internships, but our residencies offer something more for apprentice teachers: immediate classroom participation combined with courses taught by teachers on site and on campus at Lesley. (Read more about Teacher Residency options.)

Our teacher residency, modeled on the medical residency system, recognizes that pre-service teachers learn best when they are immersed in the day-to-day life of a school, observing and learning from master teachers, and working with students directly. Residents assume more responsibility for classroom life over the course of the school year, moving from working one-on-one with students to small groups, from small group lessons to whole class lessons, from a single day to a month-long unit of study.

Students in the Collaborative Internship Program either spend an entire school year in a single classroom or several years within one of our 11 school and district partner sites and pursue a master’s degree concurrently. 

“What is unique about our partnership is the mutual trust between Lesley and the participating schools,” says Language and Literacy Professor Mary Ann Cappiello, director of the Collaborative Internship Program. “Rather than separate the graduate course work and the school-based residency, Lesley’s program is integrated. We trust our partners.”

Historic partnerships

Lesley welcomed its first class in 1971 when we partnered with Shady Hill School in Cambridge, followed soon after by a partnership with Buckingham Browne & Nichols School.

After decades using this model, other universities are beginning to follow our lead.

“Residencies are hot, and we’ve been doing it for forty-something years,” says Cappiello.

The Collaborative Internship Program is foundational to raising up qualified teachers, says Desiree Ivey, executive director of Teacher Training at Shady Hill School.

“Our mantra is ‘learn to teach by teaching,’” says Ivey. “We are merging theory with practice every day.”

She explains, that teachers in training “need to see what good teaching looks like.”

The collaborative partners accept a diverse pool of apprentice teachers each year, who come from across the country to participate. Apprentices are matched with mentor teachers who evaluate their progress as they take on more responsibility during the year. Those same teachers facilitate the graduate-level courses taught on site.

The teachers in training split their coursework between their schools and Lesley.

You can’t learn to be a teacher by just taking classes. But you also can’t learn to be a teacher just by watching others or working in a school. You need both the education and the experience to make sense of it all,” says Cappiello.

Inquiry-based teaching

David Goldsmith, principal of Moharimet Elementary School in Madbury, New Hampshire, graduated from the Shady Hill collaborative in 1999.

“Shady Hill completely shaped who I am as a teacher and how I think about education,” he says.

After teaching in public and private schools for almost 20 years, Goldsmith noticed that those taught in collaborative programs are often more reflective on their work.

During his training, he appreciated how ingrained self-reflection and self-examination was.

“That kind of constant thinking and working on improving your craft and your philosophy and your pedagogy, that’s pretty awesome.”

Collaborative partners also find that having the apprentice in the class for a full year is beneficial for the students and teachers.

“When you’re invested in a school community for a full year, your investment in helping kids grow also increase,” says Natalie Dean, Brookline Public Schools’ teacher training coordinator.

Heidi Given of Somerville Public Schools adds, “Interns bring not just new questions but they bring new ideas and new ways of trying things in the classroom.”

Going public

Lesley currently has more private partnerships than public, but Cappiello believes public schools can benefit from apprentice teachers as much as private institutions.

“Our partner schools are committed to the residency model because they know that everyone, from the faculty to the interns to the K-12 students benefits,” says Cappiello.

Funding challenges may require that districts need more support to establish their teacher residency programs. But as more public schools join Lesley’s residency programs, they can create their own hiring pipeline.

“Residencies don’t just change the preparation of new teachers; they foster a culture in which all members of the school community are working together to meet the needs of young people. Everyone is better off.”