By Victor Skinner

DENVER – Denver schools are using an innovative program to help professionals transition into teaching, allowing them to bring their real-world experience into the classroom in exchange for a five-year teaching pledge.

rockstarteacherThe Denver Teacher Residency program helps potential educators cross over from other fields into teaching in the city’s public schools, particularly those with high percentages of low-income students. The program is part of the district’s effort to recruit teachers in hard-to-fill positions in math, science, special education, as well as elementary English and Spanish, the Denver Post reports.

Since 2009-10 more than 130 professionals with a variety of different backgrounds – from a former Air Force pilot to an accountant – have followed mentor teachers in the classroom for a full year while working towards a degree in education, the Post reports.

Participants, who agree to teach in the district for five years, are given monthly stipends, tuition reimbursement, tuition discounts and a priority status for hiring. The rigorous training involves shadowing a mentor teacher to learn how to handle a classroom and develop lesson plans, while simultaneously taking college courses.

“There were moments when I thought, holy cow, am I going to make it through this?” Margarita Rodriguez-Corriere, a former marketing specialist, said of the training, according to the Post. “It’s taxing as a mom and a wife. It’s taxing physically, but there was never any doubt that I shouldn’t have done this.”

Shannon Hagerman, executive director of the program, told the newspaper about 90 percent of those who have gone through the program are still teaching.

The program appears to be a good way of recruiting educators who are committed to doing what it takes to ensure students receive the education they deserve. The full year of in-classroom training is far longer than many traditional teacher college programs require, and the five-year commitment ensures those who participate are invested in their new schools.

That investment, Hagerman told the Post, is what makes the difference.

“The residency model is designed to allow a candidate to be recruited and specifically selected to work with students from our district,” she said. “They become as invested in our students as the rest of us. They become part of the faculty. That was very, very appealing to me.”

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