Arizona Teacher Residency program aims to help with state’s teacher shortage

Oct 26, 2021, 4:35 AM
(File photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)...
(File photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
(File photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — A new teacher residency program was unveiled Monday to try to address the ongoing teacher shortage in Arizona.

The Arizona Teacher Residency will be offered through Northern Arizona University starting next year. The first-of-its-kind program in the state will be two years long.

“The severity of our teacher shortage requires multiple strategies, and now our state has another tool in our toolbox to address this crisis,” Kathy Hoffman, state superintendent of public instruction, said at a press conference Monday referring to the program.

During the first year, residents will take courses and be paired with a supervising teacher at a Title 1 elementary school in the Phoenix area. There are plans to expand to high schools and rural areas in the coming years.

They’ll be placed in front of the classroom during their second year, so they can get in-classroom experience. They’ll also be provided a living stipend and receive a salary from the school district.

Residents will graduate with a “highly subsidized” master’s degree, according to a press release. In exchange, they must commit to teaching at one of the partner districts for at least three years.

The Arizona K12 Center at NAU will manage the residency program and continue to provide support to residents once they graduate. The Arizona Department of Education is providing $5 million in federal relief and recovery dollars to fund the program.

This comes as the latest survey by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association finds nearly 26% of teacher positions remain unfilled about a month into the new school year.

“This program is not meant to be in 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 those looking to switch careers or reenter the workforce,” Hoffman said.

The Arizona Residency Program is similar to the Arizona Teachers Academy, which launched in 2017 and offers students one year of tuition waived for every year they commit to teaching in Arizona public schools.

Dr. Kathy Wiebke, executive director of the Arizona K12 Center at NAU, described the Arizona Residency Program as “a different way of looking at teacher preparation.”

Participants “will walk away with an elementary education teaching certificate, and we hope to expand to secondary and special education over the years,” she added.

Wiebke said the goal is to have 30 residents participating for the first cohort and eventually have about 100.

Applications will be accepted starting this winter and residents will begin the program in the summer of 2022.

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Arizona Teacher Residency program aims to help with state’s teacher shortage