The Torrance school district is looking to expand its teacher residency program this year as it works to entice more potential educators, particularly people of color, to join the district, officials said recently.
The program, applications for which are open until Nov. 4, helps pay for those who want to be educators get their master’s degree, take a classroom apprenticeship at Torrance area schools and obtain a teaching credential in one year. Those who graduate from the program can then start working at Torrance Unified School District with a starting salary $3,000 higher than they would with just a bachelor’s degree.
The program is intended to refill the teaching ranks at Torrance Unified. TUSD, like many other districts in the state, is dealing with a teacher shortage, one that wascompounded by high levels of retirement and attrition during the coronavirus pandemic, said residency coordinator Anita Kreide.
The district also faces persistent challenges around recruiting and retaining people of color to teach special education, STEM, and transitional kindergarten.
Because of the shortage, TUSD currently has 10 teachers using emergency credentials, which means they are working full-time in the classroom while still pursuing their teaching credentials on the side. Eight of these teachers are working in special education and two are working in STEM, which is an acronym that stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
The lack of diversity among teachers, meanwhile, creates a mismatch between the racial composition of the student body and of staff. Although only 20% of district students are White, almost two-thirds of teachers are. And while around one-third of the students are Hispanic, only 11% of teachers are.
The teacher residency program seeks to address both the general teacher shortage and lack of diversity within the district.
“The residency is open to everyone – we never want to exclude anyone from any opportunity – but we are specifically looking for, and recruiting for, and casting a wider net for, diversity,” Kreide said. “We just want the students to be able to see themselves in their teachers in the classroom.”
The residency, taught by the Alder Graduate School of Education, is funded by a state grant and offered in partnership with the Hawthorne Unified and Lawndale Elementary school districts, which are facing similar challenges to TUSD. It seeks to eliminate as many barriers as possible to becoming a certified teacher.
Participants will receive a stipend of around $20,000 to $25,000 that can go toward tuition and/or living expenses. There are several other funding resources available to teaching residents, including tuition grants of up to $20,000 through the Golden State Grant program.
Applications are currently open on Alder’s website, with a priority deadline of Oct. 14, a final deadline of Nov. 4 and a start date of June 2023.
“It really is the perfect storm of funding and timing. It’s a great opportunity for people that were considering being teachers,” Kreide said. “Hopefully it opens up the doors to people who normally wouldn’t have considered that or wouldn’t have had the financial access to it.”
Over the course of the program, participants will spend time co-teaching with a mentor in the Torrance, Hawthorne, or Lawndale districts. The hope, Kreide said, is that they form a bond with their students, their coworkers and the overall district community.
“Teachers of diversity, when they come into an organization where people don’t look like them, there’s the sense of not belonging and they have higher attrition rates,” Kreide said.
“Our ideal outcome is to get them in (during training),” she added, “and have them feel a sense of belonging within the community, so they stay in our district.”