Utica College and Westmoreland Schools Partner to Create Teacher Residency Program

Caitlin George, Teacher Resident, teaching in 3rd grade class.

"The ongoing mentorship and practical experience this model offers to our student teachers, along with the instructional benefit we can provide the school district, is a win-win for everyone involved.”

The Westmoreland Central School District and Utica College has announced a special partnership during a joint press conference at Westmoreland Upper Elementary School.

Both schools have teamed up to create the “Westmoreland-Utica College Teacher Residency Program.” As part of the unique initiative, students in the Utica College Education program who have completed most of their coursework but have not yet completed student teaching requirements, are working side-by-side with elementary teachers at the Westmoreland Central School District during the 2020-21 school year.

The idea for the program was spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is forcing all schools, including Westmoreland, to come up with innovative ways to ensure students are still receiving the best education possible. The Westmoreland Central School District’s reopening plan, which was developed based on feedback from the Westmoreland school community and approved by the State of New York, provides in-person instruction to all students in grades K-6 on a daily basis, Monday through Friday. However, in order to comply with safety and health guidelines in place due to COVID-19, including social distancing requirements and capacity restrictions, all kindergarten, third grade and fourth grade classes, along with one second grade class, are divided into two groups, with each in a different classroom. The “Westmoreland-Utica College Teacher Residency Program” allows for in-person instruction to occur throughout the entire school day. While one group of students, or one half of a class, is receiving instruction from their teacher, the other group is receiving supplemental instruction from a Utica College student. The teacher and Utica College student can move freely between groups. Each Utica College student will also complete their student teaching requirements in the spring with the same Westmoreland teacher they are working with this fall.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been an extreme and unprecedented challenge for all school districts, and Westmoreland is no exception. When developing our reopening plan, we made it a priority to involve the entire school community in the process," said Westmoreland Central School District Superintendent of Schools Rocco Migliori. "After countless community meetings, it was clear the school community overwhelmingly preferred in-person instruction as the main method of instruction. The Westmoreland-Utica College Teacher Residency Program allows us to take community input and implement it. With the help of Utica College students, we are able to have our elementary students in school all day, every day, while still maintaining social distancing. Above all, we can sustain the same educational standards and rigors we, as a district, both value and have grown accustomed to. We are extremely grateful to Utica College for their willingness to work with us and to our staff for embracing this concept.”

“The Westmoreland-Utica College Teacher Residency Program is a great example of how public schools and higher education can work together for the betterment of all students, said Westmoreland Central School District Board of Education President John Acee. "Both Westmoreland and Utica College recognize our students are our future, and our partnership gives them the tools to succeed. Despite COVID-19 and the challenges it has created, Westmoreland’s elementary students can still receive in-person instruction and Utica College’s students can gain real-life experience. It is a great opportunity for all involved.”

“Utica College is excited for our students to participate in the Westmoreland-Utica College Teacher Residency Program," said Utica College Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Todd Pfannestiel. "This is a remarkable opportunity for our student teachers to join the outstanding Westmoreland faculty in delivering instruction to their students. The ongoing mentorship and practical experience this model offers to our student teachers, along with the instructional benefit we can provide the school district, is a win-win for everyone involved.”

In addition to gaining real classroom teaching experience, Utica College students in the “Westmoreland-Utica College Teacher Residency Program” are being paid by the Westmoreland Central School District until they start student teaching in the spring. The Westmoreland Central School District is in the process of securing grant funding to offset the cost.

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