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UW Initiates Unique Program to Increase Promising Minds Entering Teaching Profession

December 11, 2017
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UW Associate Professor Alan Buss teaches College of Education students in an elementary school math class. A newly approved UW program, UW Enterprise for Elevating Educational Excellence, aims to create a pipeline of prospective teachers by connecting with them when they are sophomores in high school. (UW Photo)

The University of Wyoming aims to create a new pipeline of future educators by connecting with high school students across the state in an innovative teacher training program.

In Wyoming and across the nation, too few top students are choosing to pursue careers in education, which is resulting in a shortage of qualified teachers in some areas. Additionally, many new teachers do not have enough classroom experience as they enter the career, causing both them and their students to struggle.

The UW Board of Trustees recently approved a Trustees Education Initiative (TEI) innovation proposal to address these problems. The initiative will create a unique fellowship program called UW Enterprise for Elevating Educational Excellence, or UW-E4. It is expected that the first students will begin the program in summer 2019.

The Board of Trustees created the TEI in 2015 to develop innovative and modern methods to ensure UW prepares effective educators for Wyoming. UW-E4 is one of four TEI proposals to date approved by the Board of Trustees to move forward for implementation at the UW College of Education.

“This model not only will help to expand a teacher candidate’s view of the profession, but it also ostensibly will get them to follow a pathway that is a high-need pathway in Wyoming,” says TEI Executive Director Rebecca Watts.

The program starts enveloping students in the profession as sophomores in high school through Educators Rising chapters at their schools. These chapters promote the educator professions and function much like the National FFA Organization does for agricultural careers.

UW Trustees Education Initiative Executive Director Rebecca Watts

Fellows will complete dual-enrollment, Advanced Placement and/or International Baccalaureate courses in high school, earning college credit that will result in them entering UW as rising sophomores immediately after high school graduation. This aspect of the program is critical, as it provides the students with time to complete a full-year student teaching residency during their fourth year at UW.

At the university, candidates will undergo in-depth clinical experiences through augmented reality simulations and guided in-class observations to provide them with innovative techniques and a deep understanding of the profession. Modules and competency-based learning, in place of the traditional course structure, ensure participants are developing and honing strong skills through a practice-based approach.

Modeling on the professional preparation practices in medicine and nursing, UW-E4 candidates will not be allowed to declare an area of teaching specialization until they have completed clinical observations in all grade levels and content areas. This will allow them to discover which areas they are most passionate about and gives them flexibility to choose those that are in high demand.

After completing their preparation in teaching methods and gaining deep content knowledge, UW-E4 candidates will receive a housing stipend to complete a full-year residency in a Wyoming school, compared to the traditional 16 weeks of student teaching. This will provide them with invaluable experience throughout the entire classroom cycle and be followed by a four-year professional induction and mentorship program to help guide them through their first years as Wyoming teachers.

“The incentive here is to support Wyoming schools with highly prepared, novice educators that meet the needs of Wyoming schools,” Watts says.

This program will upend how teachers are prepared at UW. From their first exposure as high school sophomores through the last days of the mentorship and induction program, graduates of the fellowship will have been fully immersed in the profession for 11 years. Armed with novel techniques and wisdom passed on by mentors, these beginning teachers will be well-prepared to lead the great minds of tomorrow, Watts says.

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