Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Residency program helps aspiring teachers get certified in 1 year

Denver Channel 9 News | December 07, 2009

DENVER - When you think of residency programs, doctors may initially come to mind. However, there's a new program in Denver using that same approach to help people become teachers in high-needs schools across the city.

The economy has forced some people, like Michael Mehle, to look to the classroom for a career.

Mehle knows all about second chances. Right now, he's learning to teach 4th and 5th graders at Archuleta Elementary.

"I spent 20 years at the Rocky Mountain News," Mehle said.

He was a reporter turned editor.

"As the resources started dwindling, the staff starts getting slashed and you start asking yourself, 'Why am I doing that?' And, 'How long is it going to last?'" Mehle said.

But in February, the Rocky Mountain News closed. That's when the Denver Teacher Residency began for Mehle. Now, he's learning a new career as a resident teacher for one year, learning from master teacher Betty Lott.

"Anything that I have to offer, I try to give him," Lott said.

Mehle takes courses at the University of Denver one day a week while spending the rest of the time in residency.

"And, I can turn around and apply it in a classroom the other four days of the week," Mehle said.

The residency program gives career changers like Mehle a glimpse into what being a teacher is really like, the logistics of putting together a classroom, and a class plan.

"And, you get to work all the way around to the end of the school year," Lott said.

Working with Denver Teacher Residency is very different from a typical student-teaching program.

Thalia Nawi directs the residency program, which currently has 27 people training to become Denver teachers.

"Teaching urban schools is hard," Nawi said. "It's really complicated and one of the reasons urban school districts see such a high level of attrition is people come unprepared for the rigors."

Nawi says people who have had a second career come in as a strength for education.

The program is a way for people like Mehle to turn things around after the end of a career.

"I wanted to make a change that, that had some meaning to it, that had some power behind it," Mehle said.

Mehle and the other residents are on pace to get their teaching licenses at the end of their one-year residency.

They should have their own classrooms by next fall.

The Janus Capital Group granted $3 million to make the residency program possible.

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