Cohort 7 all smiles posing at St. Thomas Department of Education. Credit: Saint Paul Public Schools

Written By Anny Xiong, Updated By Danielle Ferguson

On a national level, more teachers are leaving the profession and fewer people are becoming teachers (especially special education teachers), causing significant teacher shortages in most states. ​​Finding and retaining effective teachers is a challenge. Finding and retaining effective teachers from underrepresented groups is even more challenging.

The Current Challenge

In Minnesota, the percentage of teachers of color is 4.2% , while nearly 30% of the state’s students are people of color. School officials indicate strongly that while there has been access to effective and diverse teachers for white students, effective and diverse teachers for other identified ethnicities have not been readily accessible.
Recruiting and retaining an effective teaching force that includes members of traditionally underrepresented groups is a critical strategy for improving achievement for a diverse student population. Research shows that a non-diverse teaching corps is a consistent barrier to producing racially equitable education outcomes. Studies have established that students of color, many of whom lag behind their white peers in academic achievement, experience higher learning gains when exposed to teachers of color.
Research also suggests that students are more successful when they see their racial, cultural and linguistic identities reflected in their learning environment. When students see their identity represented by their teachers, they see themselves as successful and knowledgeable, too. When teachers are diverse, better outcomes for all students are possible.

SUTR as a Solution

The Saint Paul Urban Teacher Residency (SUTR) program brings together Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) and the University of St. Thomas (UST), both located in St. Paul, Minn., to address these shortages. SUTR works to build a more diverse, better prepared, highly skilled, and deeply and locally engaged cohort of teachers and teacher mentors. SUTR is a rigorous 15-month teacher residency in which residents are paired with a highly qualified and trained mentor teacher in SPPS while completing graduate-level coursework at St. Thomas.
SUTR offers a teaching residency program based on the hiring needs of SPPS. Residents are recruited from within and outside of SPPS, train in SPPS, train for SPPS classrooms and systems, and are hired and retained in SPPS. 50% of SUTR instructors are both SPPS staff and adjunct faculty for St. Thomas. In some cases, SPPS staff and St. Thomas faculty are co-instructors. St. Thomas’s coursework aligns with the residency framework and includes the SPPS racial equity policy and teacher evaluation tool. This true one-to-one district/university partnership allows residents to be more fully immersed in and prepared for the educational environment they will encounter after completing the program.
SUTR launched in 2015 and is currently recruiting for its eighth cohort of teacher residents. SUTR is open to anyone who has a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, is passionate about education and making a difference in the lives of SPPS students, and interested in any of the following: Elementary Education with a STEM focus (K-6) or Special Education Academic Behavior Strategist (ABS) (K-12) license.

SUTR is also accepting applications for candidates interested in a Math (5-12) or Middle School Science (6-8) license. With enough qualified participants, SUTR will be able to start the first math or science teacher residency cohort in the state!
Virtual information sessions are hosted once a month (twice a month in January and February) for individuals interested in learning more about the program. Additional information can be found at spps.org/SUTR. The application deadline for Cohort 8 is February 28, 2023.

Evidence of Teacher Residency Success

The National Center for Teacher Residency (NCTR) reports strong and growing evidence that teacher residency programs are having an impact on student achievement and teacher retention, improving outcomes for high-need children. NCTR measures the collective impact of network residency programs through an annual survey of network partners and communicates survey findings through the Network Partner Report. Key findings from the 2021-2022 report include:

  • 100% of principals agree that the residency graduates are prepared to be first year teachers.
  • 80% of principals agree that participating in the residency program improves student learning and achievement.
  • 91% of residents agree that they are prepared to be the teacher of record.
  • 76% of program graduates are teaching in their partner district after three years.

NCTR reports that teacher residency programs benefit students and schools by providing a consistent pipeline of better-prepared new teachers, recruiting high numbers of diverse candidates, reducing turnover and filling chronic shortage areas, and providing direct value and improvement to communities and classrooms. As a teacher residency program built on these best practices, SUTR supports these outcomes for teachers and students.

Key Benefits of SUTR

  • Become a teacher in SPPS (the second-largest school district in Minnesota)
  • Earn a master’s degree & Minnesota Tier 3 Teaching License* (*Elementary Education, Special Education Academic Behavioral Strategist (ABS), Middle School Science, or Math 5-12)
  • Health benefits (single dental and medical coverage at no additional cost)
  • $30,000 stipend while co-teaching
  • $1,000 book stipend
  • Various scholarship and grant opportunities to assist with tuition cost
  • Increase earning potential as first-year teacher
  • Receive preferential hiring from SPPS after completion
  • Induction support for resident during and after completion of the program

What Graduates say about SUTR:

Cohort – Jillian Delmain-Appelhans
“It was amazing and I am in touch with my cohort regularly for friendship, ideas and support!”

Cohort – Chyriese Knoblach
“I am still so impressed by the program and the support I received before and after graduating. I still talk regularly with my cohort members and actively look for ways to contribute.”

Cohort – Sharifa Sheyba
“The SUTR residency program transcended beyond excellent preparation to be a Cultural Relevant Educator. It created an environment for professional growth and social wealth through support from professors, advisors, and peers. As a resident, I was fortunate to be part of such a fantastic journey.”

Cohort – PaNyia Thao
“As a minority and a first generation college graduate, the SUTR program provided me the opportunity to pursue my degree, while also gaining hands-on experience teaching in the classroom with a knowledgeable mentor teacher. I am grateful for the guidance and support that I received from many passionate educators and look forward to helping my students have a positive educational experience.”

Cohort – Elvira Elfrida
“SUTR provides and gives me countless and continuous support since day one. SUTR connects me with amazing people and through the program, I encounter so many GREAT opportunities. Through SUTR my dream came true!”

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Written By Anny Xiong, Updated By Danielle Ferguson On a national level, more teachers are leaving the profession and fewer people are becoming teachers (especially special education teachers), causing significant teacher shortages in most states. ​​Finding and retaining effective teachers is a challenge. Finding and retaining effective teachers from underrepresented groups is even more challenging.…