WMU Urban Teacher Residency Program

Oct. 1, 2020

Dr. Regena Fails Nelson

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The U.S. Department of Education awarded Dr. Regena Fails Nelson, chair of the Department of Teaching, Learning and Educational Studies in the College of Education and Human Development; a $4.9 million grant for her project entitled the Western Michigan University Urban Teacher Residency Program.

WMU will partner with Benton Harbor Area Schools and Kalamazoo Public Schools to recruit, prepare and retain teachers through the implementation of a teacher residency program. Both districts have faced severe teacher shortages due to budget cuts and difficulty retaining teachers for high needs positions. The National Center for Teacher Residencies will provide technical assistance to ensure that the partnership implements evidence-based strategies for recruitment, selection, mentoring and coaching for the teacher residency program.

Some members of the CEHD leadership team have been meeting with Shelia Dorsey-Smith, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources in Kalamazoo Public Schools and Dr. LaWanna Shelton, Chief of Schools in Benton Harbor Area Schools for over two years to develop an affordable pathway for long-term substitute teachers and paraprofessionals to become certified teachers.

The project will aim to recruit more teachers of color by creating cohorts that are at least 20% racially diverse and will ensure that all program graduates have the professional development they need to be rated as effective teachers within three years. Additionally, the program seeks to increase the number of certified teachers in high need areas by at least 90 teachers and increase the three year retention of certified teachers in high need areas.

“The grant funds will allow us to create a sustainable Urban Teacher Residency Program to improve and increase the instructional capacity in KPS and BHAS through recruiting and retaining residents that have a strong connection to the community and a passion for teaching,” Dr. Fails Nelson explains.

The program has been approved by the Michigan Department of Education to use a teacher residency model that includes a year-long clinical experience with the required coursework for certification. The residents will be in cohorts and receive intensive coaching and feedback on their practice as they apply what they are learning in their coursework. Upon graduation residents will be placed in the district as full-time teachers and receive comprehensive induction support for three years.