$15,000 stipend, residency program part of Fresno Pacific University effort to get teachers into classrooms

Getting quality educators into the classrooms where they will do the most good as quickly and as effectively as possible is the goal of a new grant-funded partnership between Fresno Pacific University and Fresno Unified School District.

The U.S. Department of Education gave the university and school district $3.7 million over five years to prepare 150 new teachers as part of the Teacher Quality Partnership Grant. Candidates will receive a $15,000 stipend to fund their education and participate in a residency program. Successful participants will leave the program with a teaching credential from the state of California and a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) from FPU.

One highlight of the program is that the time to earn the MAT is accelerated to 18 months—half that required for full-time students on other credential program pathways. Another advantage is that it’s a residency, where candidates learn together in groups, called “cohorts,” that last throughout the time of instruction. “They engage in their student teaching and coursework as a group,” said Darrel Blanks, M.A., clinical assistant professor of education and director of the preliminary multiple subject credential program.

The benefit of the residency model is that it better prepares teacher candidates for the specific context and desired practices of the district. In schools candidates work with master teachers and stay at the same school throughout the credential/degree program. “That’s a key feature of all residency programs,” said Robin Perry, Ed.D., assistant professor of education and director of the preliminary single subject credential program. “Greater depth of experience at the same school.”

Candidates may pursue either a multiple subject credential to teach in elementary school, or a single subject credential in high-need subjects such as mathematics, science or English. Participants are required to teach in FUSD for three years after completing the program, but are also guaranteed positions for that period as long as they maintain professional standards. This time commitment not only gives candidates professional support and directed experience, it allows those running the program to track candidates’ progress and, by assessing the issues they face, inform the education of future cohorts. “We’ll see what happens to the students when they have their own classes,” Blanks said.

Students in the program receive the $15,000 stipend their first year, then spend their second year teaching full time and earning a salary. “Because the grant offers a substantial living stipend, that gives us an opportunity to recruit students who might not feel they can afford FPU,” Perry said.

FUSD invited FPU to be partners in the grant. “It gives us an opportunity to work with one of our local districts,” Blanks said. “To build that relationship.”

Applicants to the grant program must be highly qualified academically, able to work collaboratively in the cohort and represent the diversity of FUSD, which is the fourth largest unified school district in California with 106 schools, 73,000 students and approximately 100 languages and dialects spoken, according to the district website. “We want the accepted participants to be reflective of the population of students in Fresno Unified,” Perry said.

For more information, contact Robin Perry at robin.perry@fresno.edu or 559-453-5589, or Darrell Blanks at darrell.blanks@fresno.edu or 559-453-3679. More FPU teacher education programs at fresno.edu/programs-majors/graduate/becoming-teacher.