After two years of hosting GSE’s teacher residents, the leaders of Buffalo’s Hutchinson Central Technical High School began this year with three new residents teaching biology and French.
They have already hired two alumni and Principal Gabrielle Morquecho, EdM ’99, EdD ’13 says she would gladly hire more.
“But I know I can’t be selfish,” she jokes.
“I have to spread the wealth across the Buffalo Public Schools.”
Morquecho adds: “Here at Tech, we are really looking for teachers who have skills and abilities that are best for our school and are best for our urban students. We really wanted to hire our urban residents.”
She notes that the residents infuse classrooms with new ideas, enthusiasm and energy that impact their co-teachers, students and the school.
“It’s been beneficial to have the students be an integral part of the school and part of the building on a consistent, daily basis,” she said.
For Hutch Tech Spanish teacher and GSE mentor Meredith Anthony, working with resident Cristina Mata, EdM ’20 confirmed the insights from her own early career: A full academic year in the classroom can be better preparation than the shorter stints of the traditional student teaching model.
“You were never really comfortable in student teaching. It wasn’t enough time. So, I immediately thought, ‘Wow, an entire year!’ From how to prep for the first day of school, all the way through Regents exams and graduation ceremonies,” said Anthony. “That is going to give the whole scope and sequence of a school year and that’s going to give future teachers the confidence they need to stay in the career.”
It wasn’t until Anthony started to work with Mata that they found another benefit to capitalize on: Two teachers working together could help students practice more Spanish by breaking into two conversation groups.
Anthony also credits Mata, now a colleague and fellow Spanish teacher, with an emoji vocabulary teaching strategy: She posted an emoji collection on a screen and set a timer to see how many words students could brainstorm. If they were learning career words, they’d find emojis that fit professions like teacher, police, mechanic.
“There was just so much we could do with these little things that I would never have thought of if she hadn’t been there,” said Anthony.
Students became so intrigued that they created their own emoji themes and made sentences with a partner. “That’s where the real learning takes place—when they’re teaching each other,” she said.
Working with Mata also illuminated Anthony’s thinking about how change improves instruction. “If I am open to using strategies that work for others for my own students, then I am always going to grow as a teacher,” she said. “And my students are always going to get the best instructional methods.”
Assistant Principal Pedro Estrada, BA ’94, EdM ’08, EdM ’13 was impressed by Anthony and Mata’s seamless work together. “From the beginning, they behaved like a veteran co-teaching team,” he said. “It takes years and years and some people never get it. They knew the teamwork. It takes a level of professionalism from both ends, from both parties, to work that well.”
The residency gives a mentor and resident time together. “They planned daily. There’s something about planning that cannot be replaced with just presence,” Estrada said. “In a traditional student teaching model, they have a presence in the room, where they come in for a number of hours, but they’re not necessarily embedded into continuous planning.”
Mata wasn’t struggling as some student teachers do when they show up mid-week and then must figure out what is going on in class. “Many times, I would pop in and she was teaching and it was flawless,” said Estrada. “Ms. Anthony took the back seat and she would be just the co-teacher or the helper, but it didn’t matter. It looked like a flawless incision.”
A former Spanish teacher, Estrada says students need to speak six phrases or “utterances” to get Regents exam credit. As he watched interactions with the emojis, he could see students were speaking more than six.
Estrada says language students can be afraid to speak in class for fear of making a mistake. Anthony and Mata broke down that barrier and illustrated the power of the residency’s approach.
“Students were not afraid of engaging in the language, felt very comfortable with the level of rigor they were being exposed to,” he said. “That, to me, speaks highly of their ability to do the job.”