UTEP, EPISD teacher residency partnership expanded to five campuses
(EL PASO INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT -- Sept. 13, 2021) — EPISD expanded the Miner Teacher Residency Program to five campuses this year, giving 24 UTEP seniors an opportunity to intern in the classroom for a full year alongside a mentor teacher.
The program, which began three years ago with Mesita Elementary and Austin High School, is now at Newman and Tom Lea elementary schools, and Terrace Hills Middle/Collins Elementary, which will be consolidated next year to become Bobby Joe Hill PK-8.
The interns are actual EPISD employees for the term, can attend professional development and have access to learning platforms and instructional resources that normally are reserved for District educators.
“It’s a year-long residency where they serve as co-teachers, so when they are hired, they are considered a year two teacher,” said Crystal Floyd, EPISD assistant director of teacher talent development. “The benefit is that they are 100 percent immersed in the instruction and EPISD culture. They able to shadow their mentor not only in the classroom but also afterschool, during professional development, and parent nights. Anything the teacher does, the intern also participates in, so it gives them real life experience as to what it’s like to be a teacher every day.”
Inside Juana Basave’s fourth-grade classroom at Newman, UTEP senior Isaura Perez worked closely with a group of students on adding and subtracting decimals in Spanish. Only a month into school, Perez looked and worked with the kids like a seasoned pro.
“I’m so glad to have this opportunity,” Perez said. “She introduces me as her co-teacher, so they come to me to ask questions. They listen to me and see me as a teacher.”
The former engineering major found her calling in education while teaching catechism and confirmation classes at her church.
“I was trying to be an engineer, but it didn’t work out,” she said. “I like passing down my knowledge. I thought about teaching. I was working with little kids, and I thought I’d really like this career.”
As a veteran teacher, Basave sees a great benefit for the interns – noting that Perez is learning to analyze data and apply it in lessons to students.
“We started taking benchmarks and analyzing data to see where kids were at,” Basave said. “She’s learning what do they need to close the gap that we have right now. She’s teaching in Spanish because that’s their dominant language, so we can close that gap and eventually they will do it in both languages.”
Unlike student teaching, the UTEP seniors start shadowing their mentors on the first day of school for teachers – not 20 days in when they students have already developed their routines.
“They’re coming in the week before we get kids, so they see what it takes to get the kids to know what to do,” Basave said. “They’re going to know what to expect that first week, setting up their classrooms and setting up stations.”
The 24 interns are selected by UTEP’s College of Education and are placed based on what their certifications will be as teachers. The combination of on-site training and support from UTEP help the residents reach their full potential.
“This program provides residents rich, hands-on practice to co-plan, co-teach, and engage in professional development alongside an experienced and trained mentor teacher,” said UTEP professor Dr. Lidia Herrera-Rocha. “Throughout this yearlong experience, residents also receive intensive coaching and support from their UTEP site coordinator to ensure they are confident and Day 1 ready to meet the diverse linguistic, academic, and social needs of our unique population of students.”
Herrera-Rocha also lauds the benefit to PK-12 students who have a UTEP resident in their classroom.
“This classroom dynamic allows for small group instruction, team teaching, station teaching, and different forms of co-teaching approaches that can potentially guarantee students more individualized support,” she said.
The program also exposes interns to the teacher evaluation process and six co-teaching models to use in the classroom alongside their mentors.
“The residents are evaluated with a system that is closely aligned to T-TESS, thus exposing, and familiarizing them with the evaluation systems prior to being hired as certified teachers,” Floyd said. “Opportunity culture provides our multi-classroom leaders and mentor teachers the ability to serve as instructional leaders within their team of teachers, resulting in extended reach of exceptional instruction to more students. Residents are prepared to be ‘day one ready’ upon hiring.”
Photos by Leonel Monroy