Following the reception of grant funding in July, the Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees unanimously approved Tuesday a new initiative between the district and Stanislaus State which will effectively prepare educators to enter the workforce.
The New Generation of Educators Initiative, made possible thanks to grant funding from the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, is a three-year partnership between TUSD and the local university which aims to provide college students with experience in high quality educational settings during their teacher preparation programs. In turn, the initiative will provide the district with access to highly-qualified professional educators for its schools.
“For us, we are working to have a cooperative relationship with the university,” said Assistant Superintendent Heidi Lawler. “Moving forward, the goal is for the students to become long-term, successful teachers within TUSD.”
Thanks to its close relationship with the university, TUSD has not suffered from the teacher shortage that has affected many other school districts. The initiative was developed not to recruit more teachers for the district, but to better prepare them.
“It’s the interest of the university to improve their program so that their teachers are prepared to face the demands of a 21st century classroom,” said Lawler. “We’re always really happy to be able to make connections at the university with their incoming teachers. We’ve found their teacher prep program has been strong historically, and we see this as an opportunity to strengthen it.”
With the new initiative, Lawler expects the number of TUSD instructors hailing from Stanislaus State to increase.
Stanislaus State is among 11 California State University campuses that have earned S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation grants and has multiple teacher education programs which have a long history of working with nearby school districts to prepare new teachers. Many of the university’s teacher education courses are taught at local school sites, where candidates are provided opportunities to apply pedagogical content knowledge in supervised settings, including tutoring and other learning activities. This allows teaching candidates to practice specific skills immediately after they are introduced, dramatically enhancing their professional development.
The district and university will work closely together over the next three years to design a teacher preparation program that is both rigorous and relevant, providing effective training, monitoring and feedback while focusing on Common Core standards and Next Generation Science Standards.
According to Lawler, not only will prospective teachers receive mentorship from teachers established within TUSD, but they will also receive hands-on experience in standard classrooms and other settings, such as English language learning classes, classrooms with special needs students, students living in poverty and students identified as academically gifted.
“In our classrooms, every day we have a very diverse population of students,” said Lawler. “For new teachers to have experience working with these children…you can’t really understand about working with them unless you’re working directly with them.”
In addition to focusing on effective instruction and meeting students’ needs, the grant focuses on addressing equity, said Lawler, supporting all students with different backgrounds.
“In addition to instructional needs, we have students from all backgrounds and this helps the initiative teachers prepare for that.”