Corinne McGuigan had an unusual opportunity a few years ago to completely re-imagine what teacher-training ought to be like.
McGuigan, a Heritage University educator with 35 years of experience in the field, was helping her university apply for a U.S. Department of Education grant when she came up with a novel type of residency program to change the way student-teachers were prepared for the classroom. Heritage won the grant, and the private, non-profit university in Toppenish began rolling it out in 2010.
The program flips teacher education on its head in all kinds of ways. Undergraduates spend two years in elementary and middle school classrooms; the norm is about 14 weeks. They work in three-person teams with a master teacher. They follow the school calendar, not the university calendar. They learn all of their subject material from school instructional leaders; for example, their math instruction might come from the district’s top math curriculum instructor.
Teachers-in-training spend four days a week in the class, and on the fifth day have a seminar to talk about the content being taught in the classroom. “Their ability to do assessment well, to do daily data well, to find strategies that work for kids — this all comes together so well,” McGuigan said.