KALAMAZOO, Mich. — As our country deals with a nationwide teacher shortage, Western Michigan University is hoping to help at the local level.
In partnership with area school districts, it has launched a teacher residency program.
The Urban Teacher Residency Program will recruit, prepare and retain teachers, making that job more attainable for those already working in schools.
"It definitely addresses the teacher shortage in both districts," said a Western Michigan University Early Childhood Education Professor Dr. Regena Nelson.
The program was designed in partnership with Kalamazoo Public Schools and Benton Harbor Area Schools.
"Our current program was designed for undergraduate majors with classes during the day, an internship where you are not allowed to work while you're doing your internship for a whole semester. This model did not work for working people," said Dr. Nelson.
Now, those workers who already have a bachelor's degree and are working inside classrooms can take the 12-month residency program to gain a master's degree in elementary education and a teacher's certification.
"The teaching part they have down. It is just this making sure that they have all of the content knowledge and the teaching methods and understanding of classroom management that this program gives them to be stellar teachers," said Dr. Nelson.
It is all made possible through a $4.9 million grant through the U.S. Department of Education. The residents will be given a $20,000 stipend on top of the salary they're already making.
As they graduate from the program, they'll have guaranteed jobs in either Kalamazoo or Benton Harbor.
"Looking at the needs of the capacity at Western Michigan University, we want to have a cohort of 25 students a year to produce 25 new teachers a year for these districts over the next four years, so the big number is 100 teachers," said Dr. Nelson.
Western Michigan University already has 30 students signed up for the next cohort and said it's already looking into applicants for 2023.
The school will also be offering a similar option next year for those interested in teaching special education.