By Breana Ross
BALTIMORE (WBAL) — Training and keeping qualified teachers in classroom is the goal of one teacher prep program that’s helping Baltimore City Public Schools staff classrooms amid a nationwide teacher shortage.
“Urban Teachers” started in Baltimore 12 years ago. Two Baltimore City public school employees noticed many underprepared teachers burning out and leaving fast. Now, the program prepares hundreds of teachers at a time when it’s so needed.
In a classroom at Harlem Park Elementary/Middle school, surrounded by bright-eyed energetic first graders is Taylor Anderson’s happy place. She said teaching is not just her job, it’s her calling.
“I genuinely and truly believe that every child should have access to quality educators in a quality education, and I myself just wanted to be a part of that,” Anderson said.
She is one of 30 resident teachers in their first year of Baltimore’s Urban Teachers program. It’s a four-year program modeled after medical residency programs. First-year residents work in a Baltimore City school, where they shadow host teachers and get one-on-one coaching to prepare them to have their own class next year.
“With the young staff that we have, I am able to share with them the tricks and tips I have learned,” host teacher Shauna Anderson said.
The program has more than 200 people in the other stages, including the second-year teachers who are considered “teachers on record” and stay at the same school as their first-year residency. The first-year residents are paid a stipend, while once they reach the second year, they earn a salary and have their own class.
Urban Teachers also work on their master’s degree in teaching at American University with dual certification in math or language arts and special education. They’re trained on cultural competency and anti-racist teaching practices to make sure they are prepared to serve all students.
“Our goal is to train and place caring, dedicated, well-prepared teachers in classrooms around Baltimore City and to encourage those teachers to become career educators in our schools,” said Francesca Gamber, executive director for Urban Teachers Baltimore.
It comes at a time when recruiting and retaining qualified teachers is critical. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 300,000 public school teachers and other staff left the field between February 2020 and May 2022. Participants in the program range from people coming right out of undergraduate education to older people trying to change careers.
Baltimore City Public Schools started this school year 225 teachers short. Over the summer, the Maryland State Board of Education gave school districts the green light to waive certification rules just to keep more teachers on the job.
“I think it’s the worst possible thing to do is to roll back on the training because that’s not helping on the other end retaining teachers,” said Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, dean of the School of Education at American University. “We have about a 50/50 chance of keeping a teacher as a career educator and teachers are reporting that they’re leaving because they don’t feel prepared to do the work.”
But Urban Teachers is changing that by preparing teachers for the long haul and coaching them along the way. It’s one of several programs Baltimore City schools rely on to help fill spots in classrooms.
“We increased our enrollment by about 50% over the last two years, and we have hired about eight resident teachers,” said Venus Jackson, principal at Harlem Park.
Anderson hopes she is added to that list.
“I feel like this is where I’m meant to be,” Anderson said.
Urban Teachers also has programs in Dallas, Texas; Washington and Philadelphia. For more information, visit their website.
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