AZ Teachers

Jessica Harris, assistant principal at Safford K-8 Magnet School, and Justin Freitag, a learning support coordinator, interview Yolanda Estrada, far right, for a position as a Spanish teacher at a 2015 Tucson Unified School District job fair at Catalina High School.

School districts across the country are struggling to recruit and retain qualified teachers. That’s also the case for Tucson’s largest school district.

New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development wants to help communities change that. It is partnering with the Tucson Unified School District through a teacher residency master’s program.

“This program gives them an opportunity to build a pipeline of teachers,” said Rachel Harrison, an NYU spokeswoman.

TUSD is one of the four new partners NYU announced. In its pilot year, the program worked with charter school networks in New York, Connecticut and Delaware. Other new partners include the San Francisco Unified School District, the Syracuse City District and the City School District of Albany.

The technology-enhanced program that launched in 2016 is an accelerated 12-month master’s curriculum that combines real-world experience with online coursework. “They’re getting real, full-time experience in classrooms,” Harrison said.

Instead of sitting in lectures, student teachers will be placed in school classrooms Monday through Friday, where they would first observe more-experienced teachers and support them.

“The coursework is done online, but so much of the learning is taking place in the classrooms,” she said.

By spring, those student teachers will begin teaching.

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The online component involves mentoring from NYU faculty, coursework on an online platform and critiques of videos students filmed of themselves teaching, Harrison said.

Five student teachers will start at TUSD in the coming school year, said Anna Maiden, the district’s human-resources director. The district is providing $10,000 per student to NYU to help with the cost of their education.

TUSD hopes to achieve some teacher diversity goals set in the Unitary Status Plan, a court-ordered roadmap designed to help the district achieve desegregation as part of a decades-old court case, she said.

After the NYU master’s students have finished their program, they will start as full-on teachers at TUSD.

“It will provide more access to people who are committed to the district because they spend a year in an internship,” Maiden said.

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