Eleven Texas A&M student teachers kicked off the 2019-2020 school year as Bryan school district residents at the first aggieTERM orientation Tuesday.

The new collaborative program between Texas A&M and the Bryan school district places student teachers with mentor teachers in a year-long clinical residency, rather than the typical one semester.

The 11 student teachers — or teaching residents — in the inaugural aggieTERM class will spend their senior year with a mentor teacher at Fannin, Jones or Bonham elementary school.

Each resident also will meet with community mentors from the area.

“The purpose of today was to have all the stakeholders in the room so that we could clarify the vision and clarify their role for participating in that vision,” said Valerie Hill-Jackson, assistant dean of educator preparation and school partnerships at Texas A&M’s department of teaching, learning and culture.

Her hope for the program as it launches is for the teaching residents to know they matter, they are not alone and they have a “village” around them at their assigned elementary school, both in their mentors and at the university.

 “All of these folks are saying ‘I’m in,’ and ‘We have  your back,’ ” Hill-Jackson said. “Today was a ... focus on how we’re going to do that. We said it; today we explained how that would work and we also shared our commitment to seeing it through.”

A.J. Renold, executive director of Voices for Children and community mentor, said the program exemplifies why she likes living in Bryan-College Station because it shows the school district working with the university and the community.

Noting the gap teachers fill in some of their students’ lives, she said, “Teachers kind of saved my life, honestly, as a kid and gave me a lot of direction and nurturing that was missing in my life. I appreciate teachers, and anything I can do to help get good teachers in our schools and keep them, I’m going to do it.”

The student teachers signed an “intent to serve” during a Blue Coat Ceremony in April in which they committed to being part of the aggieTERM program. Over the summer, the 11 have participated in professional development and new teacher training alongside other Bryan educators and will begin the school year later this week.

While it has been a little overwhelming, student teacher Elvira Campos said, it is a good opportunity and reminds her she made a good choice for herself by joining the program.

“It’s teaching you exactly what you need to do in order to be successful in the classroom,” she said.

During the orientation, Hill-Jackson shared the statistics that 75% of new teachers feel poorly equipped to do their job, and after three years 30% of new teachers have left the profession. After five years, 50% have left teaching.

The goal of the program, she said, is that with the residents going through professional development and learning alongside their mentor teachers for four days each week in the fall, they will be ready to take over as the “teacher of record” in the spring semester.

Traditional student teaching programs only put student teachers in the classroom full time in the spring semester of their senior year.

In addition to the one-year program, the aggieTERM students also commit to stay in Bryan schools for a minimum of three years after they complete the program.

The goal and vision of the program, Hill-Jackson said, is “short-term clinical experience, long-term teacher impact.”

“It’s bigger than us. It’s bigger than a year of ups and downs,” she said. “We’re hoping to cultivate a new cadre of teachers and leaders.”

During the orientation at the Bryan Administration Building, the residents, mentor teachers and community mentors collaborated to create values they feel are important to allow the residents and the program to succeed.

The 11 values and commitments the groups chose were relationships, added value, support, preparation, two-way communication, connectedness, grace, empathy, healthy risk taking and time management.

After hearing the wide-ranging values and commitments and hearing the presentations, Hugo Ibarra, community outreach officer for the school district, called it one of the most successful and positive launches of a program he has seen.

After a year of fine-tuning, he said, aggieTERM could become a prototype for other programs in the state.

Ibarra’s goal in this first year, he said, is to support the residents and mentor teachers and help guide them to create what becomes a sustainable program.

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