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Cultivating Community Talent – NTC Supports Grow Your Own Educator Programming

New Teacher Center’s long-time partner Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) has always been an innovator. As the fourth largest school district in the U.S. with a student population that is majority Hispanic and Black, the district’s commitment to equity is a distinguishing feature of our partnership. So, we are more than excited to support M-DCPS’s multi-faceted Grow Your Own (GYO) teacher pathways programming as part of our ongoing collaboration to imagine new and equitable ways to engage and support aspiring and beginning teachers, and the students they serve.

Read more about the district’s GYO initiatives in this August 2022 feature in The Learning Professional, co-authored by M-DCPS’s Kristin Trompeter (Executive Director, New Teacher Support, Office of Professional Learning and Career Development) and NTC’s Stephanie Garcia-Fields (Senior Program Consultant, Internal Learning).

In summer 2022, with their office phones often ringing in the background, this year’s cohort of aspiring educators participating in Miami-Dade County Public School’s (M-DCPS) Clerical to Teach (C2T) and Paraprofessional to Teach (P2T) programs took their next big steps toward becoming teachers. During a custom pre-service learning experience designed and facilitated by NTC program consultants Taryn Glynn and Jeanna Hawkins, these seasoned school professionals, some of whom have worked in the district for decades, came together to take their rich experience serving students, families, and the local and school community to the next level.

Over the course of an intensive week, participants examined the three domains of optimal learning. (This framework, which is grounded in the science of learning and development, provides a schema, concepts, and language to talk about classroom conditions that reflect what we know about how students learn best.) They considered how their and their students’ identities and experiences influence how they show up in the classroom. Participants identified the critical importance of knowing students and building authentic, healthy relationships as the foundation for learning. And the cohort enthusiastically embraced new learning about standards, subject-area content, and instructional practice, eager for more.

“They were such a joyful and engaged group, and the community aspect of the training was particularly empowering,” said Taryn and Jeanna. “Their understanding of the learning environment from their current jobs allowed them to quickly make deep contextual connections with the content provided in the session. In addition, because they have worked within the dynamics of the school system and come from the same professional backgrounds, the training was a safe space for learning that supported confidence building — participants came together in community as ‘non-instructional staff’ to support each other in building their identities as educators.”

Cultivating Community Talent — NTC Supports Grow Your Own Educator Programming

Throughout the coming year, candidates will receive ongoing support from NTC-guided “buddy teachers” as they continue preparing for certification (and continue to serve in their current jobs). Once they are hired as “teachers of record,” C2T and P2T teachers will access three more years of aligned support through the district’s comprehensive induction program for all beginning teachers.

The C2T and P2T programs are part of a suite of grow your own educator pathways M-DCPS initiated several years ago to improve the demographic match between teachers and students in the district, increase teacher retention, and address staffing shortages. These two programs were designed to engage current district employees who have rich community knowledge and experience working with families and students as potential educators. The goal is to capitalize on the assets and expertise they bring to their new roles in the classroom.

Identifying GYO participants as ”pre-service” teachers was intentional, said Stephanie Garcia-Fields, NTC senior program consultant. Aspiring educators taking alternative routes to teaching often miss the typical supervised clinical experience that traditionally trained teacher candidates are required to complete. She also emphasized that designing a custom pre-service offering aligned with their experience and needs was critical. “The first step we took was to sit down with the program leaders to see what participants would need specifically based on the work they are already doing and the strengths they will bring to their roles,” Stephanie said. “This is something we want them to realize, that the knowledge they bring as an experienced member of the school community is going to translate into a strength in the classroom. We want to highlight and build on the skills and contacts and touchpoints and knowledge they already have that perhaps a regularly trained classroom teacher might not. [It] helps to build confidence and identity as an educator, which is important for retention, efficacy, and, of course, the student experience.”

These teacher candidates already play an essential role in students’ lives. They serve as vital liaisons between the school, caregivers, and the community. Non-instructional staff have deep knowledge of students from day-to-day interactions in the front office, including historical information, home dynamics, and knowledge about attendance and social, emotional, and academic strengths and needs. Participants who have served as paraprofessionals can also bring practical experience with classroom management, instructional strategies, IEP implementation, early/child development, parental/caregiver engagement, and learning differences to the job.

In addition to C2T and P2T, NTC is also supporting another ongoing district GYO initiative called the Temporary Instructor Preparation and Support program (TIPS). TIPS is designed to recruit college students to explore teaching as a career while serving as temporary instructors in long-term substitute positions. Three more GYO pathways in development are being created specifically to recruit more men of color currently serving in security and custodial roles. Another emerging effort targets M-DCPS high school students through the Florida Future Educators of America pathway called Project REDI (Recruiting, Empowering, and Developing Inclusive Male Teachers of Color).

Stephanie highlighted M-DCPS’s willingness to experiment within an aligned and coherent vision for teacher development as particularly powerful. This has been true, she said, ever since NTC first partnered with M-DCPS to build its comprehensive Mentoring and Induction for New Teachers program over a decade ago. “That alignment is really important to Miami,” she said. “It’s their goal that everybody gets equal access to high quality pre-service experiences, no matter what pathway brings them to the classroom.”

“Our Grow Your Own pathways are deliberately crafted with support structures.”

— Kristin Trompeter, M-DCPS Executive Director, New Teacher Support, Office of Professional Learning and Career Development

Kristen Trompeter, M-DCPS’s executive director of new teacher support, shared a reflection on the intention and design of GYO for the district. “Recently, Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) shifted so that our division of professional development now includes a focus on career enhancement, establishing the Office of Professional Learning and Career Development. From students in our schools to individuals newly relocated to South Florida who have only dreamed about working in education, we want potential hires to know that they can have a full career with M-DCPS, their employer of choice. Our Grow Your Own pathways are deliberately crafted with support structures. These plans encourage strategic partnerships, like the one M-DCPS has with the New Teacher Center, to ensure that participants in these pathways are provided with current and expert knowledge and skill sets that will lead to not only their success, but also to that of our students.”

A key priority for M-DCPS, said Stephanie, “is not just filling seats, but getting the people our kids need into the classroom … recruiting staff who come from the community, who really care about teaching and learning, and then supporting them to grow into their roles as educators.”

We are honored to support our partner in this effort to increase educator diversity in M-DCPS.

M-DCPS At-a-Glance

Over the last 10+ years, New Teacher Center and Miami-Dade County Public Schools have partnered on several major federal grants to implement and refine the district’s vision for a coherent teacher professional growth and development program. A current focus of the partnership is integrating support for potential teacher candidates coming through alternative pathways.

M-DCPS is the 4th largest school district in the U.S.: 392 schools, 345,000 students, and over 40,000 employees, covering over 2,000 square miles and serving diverse communities ranging from rural and suburban, to urban cities and municipalities. Students in M-DCPS speak 56 different languages and represent 160 countries.

Interested in learning more? Check out some additional resources: