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City Year builds pathways into teaching for diverse future educators

City Year’s innovative teacher pathway program is helping to address two of the biggest challenges facing public education today: teacher shortages and a lack of teacher diversity, particularly in districts with a students of color majority.

Many City Year AmeriCorps members are interested in teaching and youth development when they join us, and a significant number decide to become teachers during or after their year of service as student success coaches. City Year is working with partners across the country, through traditional and alternative teacher pathway programs like the fellowship launched by City Year, to make it easier and more accessible for City Year alums to enter the teaching profession.

A focus on supporting future teachers of color

Nearly half of City Year alums report they currently work in the education sector, as classroom teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, in education policy or at education-focused nonprofits. And City Year alumni teachers are significantly more diverse than the national average: In a 2022 alumni survey, 20% of City Year alumni teachers identified as Black, compared with the national average of 7%, while 54% identified as white, compared with 79% nationally.

City Year’s Teacher Fellowship is a residency model currently operating at three City Year sites: Greater Boston, Denver and Milwaukee. This program nurtures and trains diverse groups of aspiring educators who have already spent a year partnering with classroom teachers to support students as student success coaches.

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 City Year AmeriCorps members are student success coaches.

“The main goal of City Year’s Teacher Pathway Strategy is to meet the growing social, emotional and academic demands that students face, particularly those from systemically underserved and under-resourced communities,” says City Year’s School Design Managing Director Jeanette Rojas.

“It’s important for all of us to build new pathways that decrease barriers in recruiting and developing a diverse and culturally competent teaching workforce—teachers who are committed to advancing educational equity.”

City Year’s teaching fellows earn an AmeriCorps stipend and benefits, including a Segal Education Award worth more than $7,000 for past or future study, while enrolled in a cost-effective teacher training program, paying on average one-third of the cost of other teacher training programs.

By offering a more accessible and affordable route for people who are passionate about making a difference in classrooms, City Year’s Teacher Fellowship provides an effective avenue for cultivating future educators from diverse backgrounds.

We recently interviewed Ellie Corser, City Year Denver ‘21, who is also a 2022 Teaching Fellowship alum, now in her second year of teaching with Denver Public Schools. In our interview, she reflects on her journey to becoming an educator and what set City Year’s Teaching Fellowship apart from other teaching training programs.

 

Why did you want to become a classroom teacher?

Growing up, I always wanted to be an artist, but I always enjoyed working with kids. When I was younger, I also always worked as a babysitter or camp counselor, so that baseline interest was there. As an undergraduate, I studied sociology—which I loved—but I was still unsure about what career path I wanted to choose.

Luckily, I had some familiarity with City Year because my older brother was a City Year Seattle alum. And I thought, “Well, he enjoyed his experience with it, and I already know a little about what I’m getting myself into. It’s just a year-long commitment.”

During that year of service with City Year Denver, I really grew to love classroom instruction, thanks to my partner teacher. She was just truly amazing. She showed me that teaching is much more than just teaching academics. Her forefront thought in every lesson is, “How is this going to make an impact on these kids’ lives, and how can they relate to it?”

Our student population was around 95% Latinx students. And I really admired how she would incorporate culturally relevant information into her lessons so that the students could connect more to the learning process. The curriculum really revolved around the students’ lived experiences.

That was my turning point, where I thought, “Okay, this is so much more than math and reading.”

What sets City Year’s teacher training fellowship apart from other programs?

Unlike other teacher training programs, with City Year, you have a whole year of student teaching. It’s beneficial because you get to see and experience the full cycle of the academic year.

The beginning of the year is so different from the end of the year, and if you are only student teaching for that second half of the year, you’re missing out on all the essential routine set up and the management of data and getting the opportunity to know the students while they’re still refreshed from summer vacation.

On the other end, if you’re only getting the start of the year, then you’re missing what a mid-year reset looks like to make sense of the data you’ve been given.

I also stayed in the school where I served as a corps member, which was important to me. I know that with other programs, people may be placed in communities or schools where they have no former connections and often leave after the service term. So, integrating into the community over a longer period was a huge draw for me.

 

 

What were some of the joys and challenges of being a teaching fellow?

As far as “joys” go, I really loved my new mentor teacher—even though I was still in the same school. She was open, encouraging, and helpful, and she ensured I had access to all the resources I needed. It’s so much easier to try something new when you have a model for it.

I also felt like I had so many different communities supporting me, not only the school I was at, but City Year and my master’s program at the same time, which was through Regis University, all working together in my best interest, and that felt really good.

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City Year AmeriCorps alums are eligible for hundreds of exclusive scholarships and tuition reductions.

Regarding challenges, just dealing with the nervousness that comes with leading your classroom for the first time. It can be intimidating, and many people, including myself, experience imposter syndrome. But over the last two years, I’ve gained so much confidence in myself and my ability to figure it out. As we all know, teaching is never a predictable job. Every single day is different, and there’s always something that comes up, and nothing ever goes exactly according to plan.

For example, while a student teacher, I watched my mentor teacher and tried to replicate exactly what she did. But over time, I’ve shifted that approach. You have to develop your own style, combining both the science and art of teaching.

Can you briefly tell us the difference between the science and art of teaching?

Simply put, the science of teaching is pedagogy. How do you teach a child to read using the science of reading? How and when do you use interventions and tiered support? Things like that!

The art of teaching is how you take the science and make it your own. You develop a teaching style. How do you connect with your students on a personal level? What little things will you do to bring joy to your classroom?

You can be the best science teacher in the world, you can know your content,

but if you cannot bring in any of the art, warmth, and joy, then your teaching will likely be ineffective.

 

What advice would you give someone interested in City Year’s teaching fellowship?

As a teaching fellow, I was a full-time student and working full-time. That is challenging and can be a lot to manage at times. But my mantra is, “You can do anything for a year.”

People interested in the program should know that it is a lot of work and will demand a lot of your time. But you’ll have plenty of support, and people will gladly assist you when you ask for help. It is okay for it to be challenging at times. The most worthwhile things are rarely a “walk in the park.” But if you stick with it, it’ll be one of the most rewarding decisions you’ve ever made.

Interested in becoming a classroom teacher but want to learn more? Connect with a recruiter today!

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