San Marcos CISD Recognizes Texas State Teacher Residents as Assets to the School District
Texas State University, through a grant from USPREP, has been collaborating with San Marcos Independent School District (SMCISD) on a year-long teacher residency program. Students in the residency work in kindergarten through fifth grade classrooms while taking their coursework in curriculum and pedagogy. In August, eighteen Texas State elementary education students began working in classrooms at De Zavala Elementary and Crockett Elementary in San Marcos, Texas. During the fall semester the Texas State students spent at least one full day per week in their placement classrooms. Now the students are in their student teaching semesters spending five days per week in the same classrooms. What makes the residency different from the standard pathway taken by education students is the continuity of being in the same classroom for the entire school year. Placement in the same classroom for field work and student teaching allows for a deeper immersion into the culture of the classroom community and the formation of stronger, more supportive relationships with cooperating teachers, school leaders, students and their families.
Nancy Valdez-Gainer, Lecturer in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, is the Site Coordinator for the SMCISD Teacher Residency. “This is more than a theory about teacher education—we are seeing the results every day. The year-long partnership leads to stronger relationships, a real sense of community. It provides more opportunities for our teacher-education students to engage in a variety of teaching strategies and to do it with support from their cooperating teachers. If we say that relationships are at the heart of great teaching, then this is a big reason the year-long residency is such a powerful model,” said Valdez-Gainer. “Just last week a cooperating teacher told me that she sees the resident placed in her room as a colleague who is invested in the students’ learning and who she can really count on for lesson-planning and instruction,” said Dr. Jesse Gainer, teaching faculty in the residency program.
Last Thursday, the Human Resources Department of San Marcos CISD held an onboarding meeting with the Texas State Teacher Residents. The meeting demonstrated the district’s view that the residents are seen as valuable and contributing employees and not simply visitors in the schools. In this meeting, Stephanie Muñoz, Executive Director of Human Resources for the school district, announced that the Texas State residents will receive substitute-pay of $105.00 per day for the remainder of the time they are in their placement classrooms. This financial assistance is an investment by SMCISD in aspiring teachers who are engaged in the year-long residency. This assistance comes at a time when it is becoming more and more competitive for districts to attract and retain teachers and many districts are looking for ways to incentivize student teaching and develop pipelines for teacher recruitment.
The payments are a welcome assistance at a time when the college students are making great sacrifices to achieve their career goals. Student teaching semesters require the teacher residents to spend five days a week from 7:30am to 4:00pm in their placement classrooms and this doesn’t include the extra planning and preparation time that they put in daily. Most students have had to quit their jobs, or only take weekend hours, in order to complete student teaching.
Ashley De Los Santos, a current Texas State Teacher Resident stated, “I am very thankful that SMCISD is helping us out. Knowing that I don’t have to work on the weekends to provide for myself will take a load off and really allow me to put all my energy on the kids as well as focusing on becoming a great teacher.” The other residents echo Ms. De Los Santos’s sentiments. “I am so grateful to San Marcos CISD for their support and generosity. Teaching at Crockett Elementary has been an amazing experience and I’m excited to continue learning and growing in this program!” said Kenna Heroy.
The College of Education at Texas State University is also grateful for the initiative taken by SMCISD to support the student teachers in the residency program. Dean Michael O’Malley shared that “the College of Education is dedicated to the strong relationship we have with SMCISD as our home district, and grateful for the opportunity to work together in forming the best teachers in Texas who will provide rich and equitable educational opportunities for students from early childhood through adulthood. We’re inspired and beyond grateful for SMCISD’s generous support for this group of aspiring teachers and for welcoming them into the profession.” The TXST teacher residency program will begin its second year in SMCISD in fall 2022 due the exceptional investment of Dr. Michael Cardona, superintendent, and the SMCISD leadership team, campus principals, cooperating teachers and Texas State’s residency director Dr. Minda López, site coordinator Nancy Valdez-Gainer, and education faculty.