First-ever teacher residency program launches this winter in Arizona

A first-of-its-kind graduate program for teachers is launching in Arizona. It's modeled after medical residencies.

And if successful, it could change education in the state moving forward.

It's called the Arizona Teacher Residency, a strategy to combat the state's teacher shortage and high turnover rate. Half the battle is recruitment while the other half is retention, and candidates can have non-education degrees to apply.

On Oct. 25, the Arizona Department of Education announced a plan to create a pipeline of educators by awarding a $5 million grant to the Arizona K12 Center at Northern Arizona University, using money from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.

"This program's not meant to be a competition for our existing programs, but rather one that will attract a new cohort of individuals into the profession like college graduates who did not major in education and those looking to switch careers or join the workforce," said Kathy Hoffman, the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Here's what the two-year program offers aspiring teachers:

  • In-classroom experience
  • Living stipends
  • Master's degree
  • Employment in a partnering school district

"Our current educators are going to be a part of the support system for these new educators, but we need to make sure we are also supported with those classroom teachers that we have right now," said Joe Thomas.

Thomas, the President of the Arizona Education Association, supports the new program. He calls it a good step in a long journey of providing students with the schools they deserve.

He says educators have been teaching and adapting to the pandemic for a year and a half now, facing difficult challenges.

"The number one issue facing educators right now is the burnout. They are doing everything they can to meet the needs of their students and they need to feel the community is supporting them."

The Arizona Teacher Residency will accept applications this winter. Residents will begin the program in the summer of 2022.

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