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New Arizona Teacher Residency Program aims to recruit and train new, diverse educators

Arizona education leaders are hoping to find a new solution to the state's teacher shortage program by creating a new pathway to the profession: the Arizona Teacher Residency Program

Modeled after medical residencies, the new effort by the Arizona K12 Center at Northern Arizona University and the Arizona Department of Education will target college grads who did not major in education or individuals looking to switch careers and prepare them to enter the profession and offer support so they can stay in it. 

“The program will focus on recruiting, preparing, supporting and retaining more qualified teachers in Title I schools, especially teachers of color and teachers of hard to staff positions like special education and STEM," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman during a Monday press conference at Encanto Elementary School in Phoenix. 

ADE awarded the Arizona K12 Center a $5 million grant funded by federal COVID-19 relief dollars to start this work. 

During the two-year program, residents will take part in a two-week summer institute followed by a year of in-school apprenticeship under a supervising teacher before working at a partnering school for the second year. They will also will also take graduate coursework so they can earn a master’s degree from NAU at the end of the program. Participants will also get a living stipends to offset their cost of attendance. After competition of the program, participants will continue to count on the Arizona K12 Center for support and mentorship. 

"What we are really hoping is that this boosts retention, but also brings new blood into the system, new life, reinvigorates the teaching profession and just that we're able to recruit more racially diverse teachers and more men to represent under represented groups in the teaching profession," said Victoria Theisen-Homer, the program’s founding director. 

The program will start next summer with a few Title 1 elementary school districts in the Phoenix area, but will eventually branch out to high schools and rural areas. The Arizona K12 Center will be taking applications starting this winter. 

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Rocio Hernandez was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2022.