Students assist local teachers

Temple’s new teacher residency program helps schools in the School District of Philadelphia.

John Sender stands in his classroom at AMY Northwest Middle School in Roxborough. | Patrick Clark TTN

If someone was looking for Temple graduate student John Sender two years ago, they could find him in South Sudan, treating undrinkable water.

Now, he’s in Philadelphia’s AMY Northwest middle school, playing with homemade “slime” in a classroom of young students.

Sender is one of seven graduate students working to earn their certificates for teaching middle school STEM classes throughout three schools in Philadelphia. These students are a part of Temple’s new teacher residency program, hosted by the College of Education.

The program was developed through a 2014 federal grant given to Temple, and follows a model of residency similar to that of medical residency programs.

Retention of young teachers is a struggle for modern urban schools,  Dr. Michelle Lee, director of the Temple Teacher Residency Program said.

“It’s hard to retain teachers in general,” Lee said. “Especially middle school teachers in STEM.”

According to a recent segment on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” the most effective practice in teacher retention is providing them with a mentor. The teaching residents are each provided with one who will allow them to teach, work with students and critique their performance in the classroom to help them become better teachers throughout the year.

“We try to place them in host schools where there is at least a group of residents and a group of mentors so there is a community that’s there,” Lee said.

Teachers earn certification in all courses for grades four through six, and a certification in science or math for grades four through eight in the program.

Kurt Barkley, 57, is going for his third degree and working toward his certificate in teaching as a teaching resident at AMY Northwest. Barkley, a Philadelphia native, said he wanted to earn his degree in teaching to create positive change in the lives of city kids.

“I’ve got memories of great mentors that I had and how they made a difference in my life so I’m just hoping that I can do the same thing,” he said.

All of the residents at AMY Northwest agreed they learn from both their mentor and their students.

“There are a lot of masters programs that get you a teaching certificate, but this one is a concentrated program where you can do it all in one year and I thought that was a really good thing,” said 54-year-old Michael Shumaker, who is approaching his third career and fourth degree. “Also they place you in a classroom for a whole year—we get a lot more extensive exposure to students over the course of a year and we get to work with a mentor teacher for a whole year. I think part of it is that as my third career I get to be able to work with students in an urban setting where there is definitely a need for science and math teachers.”

“It was too good of an opportunity to pass up,” said Aashita Batra, Temple undergraduate alumna and current graduate student in the teacher residency program at AMY Northwest.

Dean Gregory Anderson of the College of Education believes the program is worth the federal government’s investment, in addition to the school’s contributions. The program will be evaluated by an outside source to ensure the effectiveness of the program, as well as ensuring the program is producing the highest quality teachers.

“The proof has to be in the pudding,” he said. “We want to validate that we’re preparing quality teachers and the only way to do that is through evaluation so I think that it’s going to make a difference.”

“We have a great team at the College of Education, and I’m really proud of what has been done,” Anderson added. “I think it’s the beginning of something really important for Temple and specifically for the College of Education.”

Gillian McGoldrick can be reached at or on Twitter @gill_mcgoldrick.

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