Teacher Prep, Reimagined

Communities might already have the future teachers they need. Here’s how an innovative residency model can help them—and their students—succeed.

teacher resident speaking to class.

Recruiting teachers has long been a challenge within many school districts, one made even more difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic. And research shows these teacher shortages disproportionately impact students of color along with those from low-income backgrounds, those with disabilities and those from rural communities.

But a program designed to overcome these challenges has gained the attention—and the backing—of the U.S. Department of Education. The University at Buffalo Teacher Residency Program, hailed by the agency as a model for the nation, recently received a three-year, $3.5 million grant to build upon the success it has had in creating a more robust and diverse teacher workforce.

UB’s program enables anyone with a qualifying bachelor’s degree who is interested in a career in education to earn New York State initial teacher certification through a paid residency. The one-year program combines coursework with experience teaching alongside a veteran teacher for an entire school year in the Buffalo Public Schools.

Leveraging the diversity of the local community

One of the main intents of the program is to build more equity into the school experience for historically underserved communities by attracting and supporting teachers who are as racially, ethnically and linguistically diverse as the students they teach.

Doing so requires collaboration and investment, noted Amanda Winkelsas, residency director and clinical assistant professor of learning and instruction. The program provides residents an $18,000 stipend and expects them to teach in city schools for at least three years after completion. The result is teachers who are more effective, better prepared and more committed to their students.

“The Buffalo Public Schools made me,” said Sydney Favors in a recent Buffalo News story. A member of the program’s pilot cohort, Favors is now in her second year teaching social studies at a public high school in the city, and plans to stay. “I come from this community, and I want to support it.”

A blueprint for learning

Since its launch in 2019, the program has placed 70 new teachers in city classrooms (including this year’s cohort of 19 residents) and built a community of 60 mentors and more than 40 UB faculty. With the new funding, it will soon expand to several neighboring districts. To help other universities and school districts across the country replicate its success, a team of researchers and educators from UB and the Buffalo Public Schools co-authored a book that can serve as a guide for establishing similar teacher residency programs around the country.

The book, titled “A Case for Change in Teacher Preparation: Developing Community-Based Residency Programs,” outlines methods for creating programs that tap the community to fill the local teaching force.

Said co-author Julie Gorlewski, senior associate dean for academic affairs and teacher education, “We tried to write the book we wish we’d had when we planned and implemented the program.”