The Fresno Rural Teacher Residency Program (Rural-TRP), an educator preparation partnership between Fresno State’s Kremen School of Education and Human Development and Fresno County Superintendent of Schools (FCSS), is front and center for excellence in local teacher residency partnerships. Recently, their efforts have been recognized as the best in the Central Valley, and by extension, the State of California.
This project would not have gained such high honors if it hadn’t been for strong district partnerships and a supportive alliance of dedicated educators. The collaborative leadership of Dr. Heather Horsley, Director of Teacher Residency Programs in Kremen, along with Christina Macias, Rural-TRP Professor-in-Residence and Dr. Hank Gutierrez, FCSS Deputy Superintendent of Educational Services, with Brooke Berrios, FCSS Program Coordinator of Residency Programs, positions the Rural Teacher Residency Program as a successful model for partnering with multiple rural districts focused on growing its own teachers.
Kremen has a decade of experience developing, improving, and sustaining teacher residency programs and is seen as a leader of this rigorous pathway, teaching both locally and nationally. Kremen residency leadership and faculty are responsive to the needs of their local district partners. They design coursework and clinical experiences that ensure that the teacher residents are day-one ready to meet the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse students in the Central Valley.
Historically, Kremen’s teacher residency partnerships have focused on the needs of the larger local districts, in part because they can more successfully hire the resident graduates into their districts. This created unequal access to highly prepared teachers for smaller districts. Fresno County and Kremen leadership worked to address the issue, which led to the launch of the Rural-TRP in August 2021.
“When superintendents of local, rural districts opened up conversations about their unique needs, we felt a collective responsibility to take intentional action. We were driven by a common goal of developing a rural teacher pipeline that creates the conditions where K-12 students, rural residents, teachers, and communities can thrive. It amazes me how much we have accomplished in a short period of time, something that would not be possible without a strong local partnership consisting of several interest holders.”– Dr. Horsley.
The success of the County-University partnership has been recognized with two prestigious state awards for excellence in education.
The California School Boards Association recently bestowed upon FCSS, in recognition of the Fresno-TRP, the 2022 Golden Bell Award in the Professional Development and Teacher Recruitment/Retention Category. The CSBA Golden Bell Awards promote excellence in education by recognizing outstanding programs and practices of school boards in school districts and county offices of education throughout California.
The Fresno-TRP is geared towards recruiting, retaining, and supporting a teacher workforce that accurately reflects community demographics. It positions teachers to thrive by providing equity-driven professional development and intentional partnerships with mentor teachers. The Rural-TRP also partners with the California Teaching Fellows Foundation, a local expanded learning program, to deepen the rural teacher pipeline.
“What stands out most to me is how the Rural Teacher Residency Programs recognizes the various community assets that exist, and the ways in which there is a desire to bring those community assets together to help accomplish the goals of the rural residency. As a community based organization, I appreciate the recognition and inclusion strategies that helped uplift our agency in the process and created the circumstances that allowed those students to make the transition from Expanded Learning youth worker into the residency program.”– Mike Snell, CEO California Teaching Fellows Foundation.
The success of the Rural Residency goes beyond instruction in the classroom. The local, rural districts have the opportunity to hire resident graduates, the majority of whom are residents of the rural communities in which they serve. To have teachers who reflect the backgrounds of the K-12 students and who are deeply rooted in their communities is greatly beneficial to the students’ academic and social development.
“This [program] is extremely important. We want to see our hometowns grow and progress. I plan to stay here and serve the Spanish-speaking community. Teachers that understand and can connect with parents will change the lives of rural students.”– a member of the Rural Resident Cohort 1.
At present, the Rural Residency partners with districts have hosted two distinct cohorts. The first cohort of 19 residents graduated in May 2022, while the second cohort of 18 residents is currently enrolled. Together, 35 rural residents have been placed in 10 different elementary schools in the Kerman, Firebaugh, Mendota, and Golden Plains school districts.
According to information provided by Berrios, of the 19 rural residents in cohort one, 74% have received contract offers. Nearly 63% were hired back into a rural district and 27% were hired on Dual Immersion contracts.
“The Rural Teacher Residency supports the Teacher Development, Economic Development, and Human Capital for the communities of Firebaugh – Las Deltas, Kerman, Mendota, Golden Plains, Laton, and Parlier Unified in an “equity in action” model, providing the essential elements for long-term sustainable educational effectiveness and generating highly qualified teachers for some of California’s most impoverished students.”– Dr. Gutierrez.
An Apple for Excellence
In addition to receiving the Golden Bell Award, the Rural Teacher Residency Partnership was also awarded the Apple for Excellence Award from the California County Boards of Education. The Apple for Excellence Award recognizes outstanding programs administered by county offices of education that reflect the depth and breadth of a county education program necessary to address students’ changing needs.
The Apple for Excellence Award also represents an appreciation to the dedicated educators in county offices across the state that strive to provide high-quality education with cutting-edge innovation.
Both awards signify a level of distinction that sets these programs apart from others in the state. These awards also validate FCSS and Kremen’s ongoing commitment to shape policy around funding, diversification, recruitment, and retention efforts for the rural teacher pipeline.
“These awards highlight outstanding programs and provide an opportunity to share information about effective educational strategies with other county offices of education throughout the state.”– Berrios.
The Rural Teacher Residency Program received both awards at the Golden Bell Awards Reception and Ceremony on Thursday, December 1, 2022, at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina.
(Written by Dr. Heather L. Horsley, Assistant Professor and Residency Director at the Kremen School of Education and Human Development and co-authored by Kremen staff)