Supporting New Teachers

Learning Academy Provides Classroom Strategies, Camaraderie

by Linda Odette, School News Network 

Imagine what it would be like to keep up to thirty 5-year-olds under control without a lot of knowledge on how to manage such a group. Then imagine you’re also a new teacher.

Enter The Learning Academy, a Kent ISD professional development program started in 2013 that brings together new teachers for lectures, simulated classes and observing master teachers to help them be more successful in the classroom.

Fourteen Kent ISD districts currently send teachers to The Learning Academy. Some districts run their own programs, but working with Kent ISD is more cost-effective, says Andrew Steinman, educational technology consultant. “We know there are more new teachers than we’re reaching,” he says.

The Learning Academy is divided into first-, second- and third-year groups and has about 50 teachers participating. It will “graduate” its first class of teachers who have been through the entire three-year program this year.

“It’s important we have this,” Steinman says. “They come out of college and aren’t totally prepared to walk into a classroom and teach. There’s so much to learn, and you can’t do it in four years.”

Bryce Maurer, a first-year, fifth-grade teacher at Kent City Community Schools, says Learning Academy “feels like a college course, but instead of textbooks and homework, your job is to bring experiences and tips.”

Besides providing support for new teachers, it’s hoped the professional development will help convince them to stick with the profession. Statistics show 40 to 50 percent of new teachers leave the profession after five years, Steinman said.

“I would say that (many) new teachers ‘throw in the towel’ because they get overwhelmed with the expectations and responsibilities related to teaching,” Steinman says. “The academy provides them with a supportive network that helps them to develop their capabilities to meet the challenges related to their expectation and responsibilities as a classroom teacher.”

Only three years into the five-year outlook, it’s too early to tell the academy’s effect on retention rates, but “it’s looking promising,” Steinman said.

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