Nate Giles, SUTR Cohort 1 graduate and Special Education teacher at Highland Park Senior High.

By Rebekah Doyle and Anny Xiong

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. 

YouTube video

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 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 seventh 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 twice a month for individuals interested in learning more about the program. Additional information can be found at Application deadline for Cohort 7 is February 28, 2022!

SUTR Cohort 3 during residency, now graduates and in their third year of teaching.

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 2017-18 report include:

  • 91% of principals said that residency graduates outperform the typical new teacher.
  • 91% of principals agree that the residency program improves achievement and student learning at their school.
  • 95% of graduates agree that they entered the classroom with more effective skills than the average new teacher.
  • 86% 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.

SUTR benefits and outcome: 

  • Become a teacher in SPPS (the second-largest school district in Minnesota)
  • Earn a Master’s degree & Minnesota 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
  • 113 teachers trained and hired in the past five years
  • 59% of residents identified as BIPOC
  • 88% of residents have completed the program
  • 95% of residents who complete the program has been hired by SPPS

What Graduates say about SUTR:

Cohort 1 – Jillian Delmain-Appelhans

“It was amazing and I am in touch with my cohort regularly for friendship, ideas and support!”

Cohort 2 – Becca Ayala

“I appreciated the extended partnership with my mentor teacher, as well as, the opportunity to apply my learning through simultaneous coursework and student teaching. Especially as someone who had worked in schools as a paraprofessional, I felt like SUTR prepared me better than a traditional teacher prep program would have.”

Cohort 3 – David Taylor

“My SUTR experience co-teaching a full school year with a licensed St Paul teacher has definitely prepared me for two successful years so far. “ 

Cohort 4 – Ryan Birkemeier

“SUTR allowed me to become a successful teacher in SPPS in only 15 months and allowed me to connect with a community of like-minded educators. The SUTR community is changing education in SPPS and continues to stand by me as I connect with, support and stand up for every student in my classroom.”

Cohort 5 – 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.”

About the University of St. Thomas

The University of St. Thomas (St Thomas) is Minnesota’s largest private university, with 10,000 students from 50 states and 63 countries. UST offers more than 100 undergraduate majors and 60 graduate programs. The School of Education at St. Thomas prepares Minnesota’s teachers and education leaders in 40 licensure areas. 92% of graduates of UST’s College of Education who intend to enter the field of teaching pass all of the applicable state qualification assessments for new teachers, including content area. That pass rate ranks UST in the top three highest-performing teacher preparation programs in the state.