iTeachAZ: Preparing Teachers to Teach

Glendale, AZ | Submitted by Nancy Perry, PhD

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Providing college students with realistic expectations for their future profession is one of the hardest challenges for purveyors of higher education. But the team at Arizona State University (ASU) has pioneered a way to do just that for students in their Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

To ensure that their graduates are as prepared as possible, and to aid in stemming the teacher shortage, ASU revamped their educational program to include more practical instruction and more time in front of a class. The resulting iTeachAZ program is a new model for teacher preparation that provides greater clinical experience through intensive student teaching experiences.

To make iTeachAZ a reality, the team has developed partnerships with 26 school districts around the Valley. In the past, where student teachers would teach for only a few weeks, seniors now have an entire year in a classroom, which has been critical for hands-on experience and preparation. They learn the ins and outs of running a classroom, and how to be a part of the school as a whole. What’s more, these students are getting more math and science instruction to ensure that they’re ready to cover a variety of subjects with their future students.

These prospective teachers work with mentor teachers to plan and deliver lessons, just as they would as a regular faculty. They follow that school’s academic calendar and even take some of their classes onsite, to better illustrate the practical applications of the course work. This immersive approach includes an evaluation that was designed to mirror evaluations used by the Arizona Department of Education.

iTeachAZ is continually being evaluated and adjusted to ensure that students receive the instruction that they need to be successful. ASU works with students, mentors and their partner districts to identify areas of need, based on both data and anecdotal feedback. It has been a boon for school districts who can then hire teachers who already know their students and parents.

Only a few years old, this groundbreaking program has graduated students who are well-prepared to tackle a classroom of their own. Students are given a realistic vision of what their future job will be like and how they can tackle the myriad challenges that come with working in education. Among the first cohort of iTeachAZ graduates, 92 percent were still teaching after four years, compared with the statewide overage of 76 percent. District leaders have praised the professionalism and readiness of graduates and have hired many before their education was even completed. In fact, the system has been so successful that other education colleges are seeking to emulate ASU – more than 150 other institutions have reached out for help and the school’s former dean has even spoken in front of Congress to present the results.

Having an effective teacher in the classroom is one of the biggest predictors of student success and ASU is working hard to ensure that students in Arizona have access to the most qualified and inspired educators.

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