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Different paths to classroom draw diverse talent

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A math teacher at Herbert Hoover Middle School gives students a quiz on May 2 in San Francisco. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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As I embark on Week 2, it is already clear to me that the San Francisco Unified School District is blessed with many extraordinary teachers. While the work our teachers do deserves recognition every day, Teacher Appreciation Week and brings special opportunities to celebrate our teachers.

Who among us doesn’t recall a favorite teacher or two or three? For me, as a student, it was Mrs. Maud Pearson’s physiology class at McAteer High School. From my own experiences, and from the many stories I’ve heard from others, the teachers we recall most fondly were those who most challenged us, most believed in us and most successfully connected with our hearts and minds.

In addition to appreciating teachers, we also want to ensure that we prepare our newest teachers well, which is why I want to share with you a few of the ways we do that …

GROWING NEW TEACHERS

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We’re hard at work making sure our kids have a Mrs. Pearson in their life, and that includes cultivating new teachers. Our nation is experiencing a shortage of teachers. In California alone, the percent of people graduating from teacher credential programs has been in dramatic decline for a decade.

Some people who would love to become teachers may not have the resources to go back to school full-time to earn a credential. At the SFUSD, we have developed ways to support them. We’ve created multiple options for people to participate in high-quality teacher preparation programs.

PATHS TO THE CLASSROOM

One option we offer is residency programs, wherein soon-to-be teachers are matched with experienced teachers and do coursework in the evenings and weekends that is rooted in a daily classroom experience. Research has shown teacher residency programs prepare teachers who are not only highly effective in the classroom, but are also more likely to stay in high-need schools.

The SFUSD has longstanding relationships with top-notch local universities, including Stanford, San Francisco State and the University of San Francisco. This year, we forged a new partnership with New York University Steinhardt to offer an intensive, one-year residency program for middle and high school teachers. Residents start in August and are able to work full-time in our classrooms — alongside a trained teacher — throughout the entire school year.

In addition to teacher residency programs, the SFUSD now offers another option for people who have experience working with youth but who have yet to complete their credential. The Pathway to Teaching option includes an intensive summer field placement combined with a year-long preparation program that includes intensive coaching while participants work as intern teachers.

I’m happy to say these options are helping us attract diverse talent to work with our students. We have exceeded out Pathway to Teaching recruitment goals, meaning we have recruited more applicants into the program than expected.

TEACHERS ALWAYS GROWING

We don’t stop supporting new teachers at the time they are hired. We develop and support robust induction for new teachers, including one-on-one coaching and capacity building to enable school teams to provide effective daily support.

The SFUSD enables every teacher to participate in paid professional learning every year, regardless of how long they’ve been teaching. When we walk into classrooms, there is something you can sense when a teacher both loves the subject matter being taught and the children they are teaching. We’re recruiting more teachers like that. If you’re interested, take a look at what we have to offer and check out our salaries and benefits.

Vincent Matthews is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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