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RCSD Partners with Area Colleges on First-Ever Urban Teaching Fellows Program

In the Community: From the RCSD

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The Rochester City School District (RCSD) recently partnered with Nazareth College and the University of Rochester to bring a first-of-its-kind urban teaching fellows program to Rochester.

The ROC Urban Teaching Fellows program is based on a teacher residency model, an innovative solution that will ease the teacher shortage in Rochester while giving future educators hands-on classroom experience, employment, and mentorship. It is open to initial certification graduate students in the Nazareth School of Education inclusive childhood program and the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education adolescence and inclusive programs.

“I am excited we are expanding this program with such highly regarded partner universities,” said Dr. Carmine Peluso, Interim Superintendent of the Schools for the RCSD. “Districts all across the country are faced with teacher shortages, and we now have a unique opportunity to bring diverse candidates from our community to teach our students. These fellows are receiving embedded mentoring, health and dental benefits, and access to our award-winning Career in Teaching program.”

Fellows are hired by the District under a three-year contract, paid a salary with benefits, and provided $10,000 toward college tuition.

The program is designed like a medical residency, and during their first year, teacher candidates who are accepted into the program will work full-time in Rochester school classrooms side-by-side with an experienced mentor while simultaneously completing a master’s degree that leads to certification.

After successful completion of their first year, ROC Urban Teaching Fellows will spend the next two years leading their own classrooms within the District.

The program is currently in place at the Children’s School of Rochester No. 15, Francis Parker School No. 23, and East High School, and includes three fellows from Nazareth and three fellows from the University of Rochester.

“This new partnership will support the recruitment and retention of teachers in Rochester schools who are committed to urban education,” said Nazareth’s School of Education Dean Kate DaBoll-Lavoie.

“What is so innovative about ROC Urban Teaching Fellows is the close collaboration among our two schools of education and the Rochester City School District to design teaching candidates’ preparation as they enter the profession.”

DaBoll-Lavoie said the preparation blends mentored co-teaching experiences in schools with college coursework, and the financial support allowing Fellows to be in classrooms on a daily basis across the entire school year while simultaneously completing a master’s degree leading to teacher certification. She said research shows that these types of programs lead to greater teacher retention, an additional critical component.

The New York State Education Department expects New York State to need 180,000 new teachers in the next decade. The District will pay each student’s $10,000 tuition benefit and teacher salary through American Rescue Plan funding. The Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation, a generous donor to this program, is providing additional funding for planning, staffing support, and program implementation. In turn, the District will address high-need shortage areas, including special education at all grade levels, Spanish bilingual education, mathematics and science education, and Career and Technical Education.

“We know from research and experience that when residents work intensively with young people, mentor teachers and other educators in their schools, all benefit significantly,” Kevin Meuwissen, chair of Teaching and Curriculum at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education said. “It adds value for everyone. And it does so in a way that encourages successful entry into teaching, not by watering down teacher education, but by making it more affordable, more powerful, and more responsive to the Rochester community’s needs.”

Participation in the ROC Urban Teaching Fellows program is based on a competitive application process. Students must apply to either Nazareth or the University of Rochester’s graduate teaching preparation programs first, and then through a complementary selection process for the fellows program.