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A cheaper alternative for developing new teachers [Letter]

I read with great interest your article, "Residency program tries to solve problem of teacher burnout" (Aug. 18) about the Baltimore-based Urban Teacher Center developed by Jennifer Green, a former employee of the Baltimore City Schools. This initiative to procure highly talented, dual-certified future educators to serve our urban students is, like many teacher education pathways to certification in Maryland, a viable and successful endeavor.

The Urban Teacher Center (UTC) reminds me of a similar program initiated under my supervision when I served as the human resource officer for the Baltimore City Public Schools. Called the Graduate Education Internship (GEI), this fast-paced program was designed to tap into the vast pool of talented college graduates and career changers who expressed a strong desire to teach in an urban environment. What began as an initiative with several local universities quietly ended when the school district's funds dried up. However, what continued and is now embarking on its ninth year of operation is the same GEI model conceived and later refined and strengthened by faculty at Notre Dame of Maryland University.

Unlike the UTC, which costs a principal $20,000, the Notre Dame GEI program prepares high quality candidates at no cost to the school or the school system. These teacher candidates (over 200 of them to date) serve in residence under the supervision of an excellent mentor teacher for an entire academic year for one-half day each morning; and in the afternoon, these would-be teachers return to campus to complete all course work that will enable them to become dual-certified in special education and in a content/program area (e.g., mathematics, elementary education, biology, etc.). They also have the unique opportunity to reflect daily on what they have learned at the University and have tried to implement in their school.

The opportunity to serve as a resident in an urban school prepares them for the rigors associated with the content, the socio-economic environment and the learning community where they hope to gain employment. Most are actually hired by the supervising principals where they complete their residency (at no cost to the school or school system), and their "voluntary" rate of retention (unlike the UTC 4-year contractual commitment) far exceeds the normal tenure of most new educators in similar environments.

Gary L. Thrift, Baltimore

The writer is chair and associate professor in the School of Education at Notre Dame of Maryland University.

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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