In a groundbreaking collaboration that promises to redefine the landscape of teacher education, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the Jacksonville North Pulaski School District have joined forces to introduce an innovative new teacher residency program.
The transformative initiative provides teacher candidates with high-impact, paid residencies that will prepare these aspiring educators to be ready for their classrooms on their first day as a teacher.
“Resident teachers play a vital role in the public education system, providing not only academic instruction, but also serving as mentors and role models for scholars. Their presence in the classroom ensures a level of continuity and stability that is essential for creating a positive and supportive learning environment,” said Dr. Jeremy Owoh, superintendent of Jacksonville North Pulaski School District. “We are excited about this partnership with UA Little Rock and the opportunity to invest in the future of our scholars and school community.”
The new residency program was announced Sept. 21 at Jacksonville Middle School. The first five UA Little Rock education students participating in the program include Chadwick Comer, Syrena Crotts, Laury Miller, Myah Steed, and Rachel Vickers.
With classrooms as their training ground and mentorship as their compass, aspiring educators are set to embark on a journey that will shape not only their own careers but the minds of countless students for generations to come.
“We cannot thank Dr. Owoh and the whole JNPSD team enough for supporting our teacher candidates in their learning, both through connecting them with expert mentor teachers, and also through funding their experience so they can actually afford to have the immersive experience that we know is best for teacher training,” said Dr. Sarah Beth Estes, dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences, and Education at UA Little Rock.
Teacher candidates are normally not compensated while they complete their required internships in local schools, creating a barrier to graduation for students who have additional work, family, and financial obligations.
“It is our belief that by providing students with paid residencies, the ability to learn with expert national partners, and the opportunity to collaborate with a local school district like the Jacksonville North Pulaski School District, our teacher candidates are going to be prepared for the classroom like never before,” said UA Little Rock Chancellor Christina S. Drale.
Supported by a grant from Forward Arkansas, the residency model allows teacher candidates to spend a year working with experienced teacher mentors in the Jacksonville North Pulaski School District. The grant is designed to aid UA Little Rock in increasing the number and diversity of teacher candidates entering the field. The university’s proven track record of providing affordable, quality education to students made it the perfect partner for this grant.
“This program is a public commitment to the continuation of a very special partnership that is made possible through the generosity of Forward Arkansas,” Drale said. “The need for quality teachers in our state and in our community has never been greater. Here at UA Little Rock, we have embarked on a comprehensive program to recruit, train, and retain K-12 teachers in Arkansas. We are grateful to the Jacksonville North Pulaski School District and U.S. Prep for their strong support and collaboration on this program.”
Chadwick Comer, a senior middle childhood education major from North Little Rock, said that participating in the teacher residency program is strongly helping him prepare for his future as a teacher.
“The teacher residency program is significantly different from the teacher observation program,” Comer said. “As a teacher resident, I feel more empowered in the classroom. While as a student observer, I was not certain of my place. It’s all real time, and it’s in the moment. I was here for professional development, and I will be here until the last day of school in the same classroom with the same students. Teaching English and language arts is my passion.”