Cover Story | The Evolution of Teacher Preparation

Teacher education reinvented


Teacher residents.

Developing a transformational approach, building on tradition

As understanding of, awareness about, and experience with GSE’s Teacher Residency Program has grown, so has interest in and demand for it—and subsequently, its impact. The program and its approach to teacher training is now in its third year in partnership with the Buffalo Public Schools. 

The residency model improves upon the traditional practice of placing graduate students in schools for short-term classroom experiences. Distinctive features include a year-long experience, with a summer semester, in a single school, working with a mentor teacher. Residents earn a master’s degree, a living stipend and a three-year job commitment with Buffalo Public Schools.

Working in urban schools, the residents learn a responsive teaching style that considers differences in race, ethnicity and socio-economic background. They finish their studies with the understanding, confidence and resilience to respond, flex and adapt to a range of classroom dynamics. Residents are able to apply what they’re learning in real time. Program faculty and staff stay connected with resident alumni offering additional support during their first three years of teaching.

The 2021 cohort of 23 residents working in eight Buffalo Public Schools is nearly double the number of residents in each of the two previous years. 

Leaders in the Buffalo school district say they appreciate the curriculum’s tailored approach with its emphasis on the specific needs of city schools. Mentor teachers and school principals welcome the year-round help from resident co-teachers who can offer new insights into classroom practice. 

As the following stories attest, the Teacher Residency Program is having an impact. Informed by teacher training of the past, it is charting a new trajectory for teacher preparation of the future.


Evolutionary stories

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.
Gary Crump listened, with deep discouragement, to a judge give a sentence that put three young Black and Hispanic men in prison for life for crimes that could have been prevented with education. In that moment, he decided his time would be better spent working with young men in a classroom than as a legal advocate. He remembers thinking, “There’s got to be a way I can have an impact on young men of color.”
After two years of work in Buffalo Public Schools, the GSE Teacher Residency Program team of faculty, PhD students and educator collaborators developed a program template to share with other graduate schools.
After its launch last year as a GSE pilot project, the Buffalo Aspiring Leadership Academy, or BALA, continues this year with nine candidates working with principal-mentors in nine Buffalo Public Schools. Design elements are similar to the Teacher Residency Program: Members of this year’s class work in schools and do GSE coursework that completes the requirements of the New York State School Building Certificate, a qualification for any school leadership position in the state.
Being a teacher resident during the pandemic, with its upending shift from teaching in a classroom to virtual lessons, fortified Tara Strade, BA ’19, MS ’20—as a graduate student and as a teacher in training. She had no choice but to find ways to balance her studies and lead second grade classes alongside her mentor teacher.
As Tanika Shedrick, MA ’06, begins her fourth year as principal of BUILD Community School, the school’s partnership with GSE and its Teacher Residency Program has helped turn the historic Black school into a learning lab. Shedrick, a member of the program’s steering committee, can see how the five residents placed at BUILD during the program’s first two years have contributed to a dynamic environment for everyone—administrators, teachers and students. This year, the school is hosting five residents at once.
Bobbie Finocchio’s first teaching experience launched her career as an advocate for change and, three years ago, led to a job as one of the leaders of UB’s three-year-old Teacher Residency Program: As she began to work as a teacher educator associate and help lead this new program in Buffalo Public Schools, she was motivated by her own experience as a new teacher at 21.

Making a case for change

Since the program’s inception, Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash has been its champion. 

Addressing the incoming class of 23 residents this summer, he emphasized the transformative power of the diversity work and mentor-teacher relationships. 

Cash said GSE’s approach, which offers the kind of in-school training that educators often do not get until after graduation, could be a national model. It may show people, beyond Western New York, a diverse and effective template for changing teacher education. 

“In the years since the program was established, I’ve been able to visit schools, our Buffalo Public Schools, to see these teacher residents who come from a wide array of backgrounds, ethnic, cultural, racial and gender backgrounds, and they are doing delightful work in our schools,” he noted.

I knew this urban Teacher Residency Program would be a difference maker for us.

Kriner Cash, Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent