Gannon, Erie’s Public Schools Partner To Create Teacher-Recruitment Program

Gannon University and Erie’s Public Schools have been awarded a $75,000 planning grant to develop a teacher  residency program that is intended to improve minority teacher recruitment to the city.

Gannon University and Erie’s Public Schools have been awarded a $75,000 planning grant to develop a teacher residency program that is intended to improve minority teacher recruitment to the city.

Gannon University and Erie’s Public Schools have been awarded a $75,000 planning grant to develop a teacher residency program that is intended to improve minority teacher recruitment to the city.

The funding is part of the Innovative Teacher and Principal Residency grant program operated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

A planning grant usually is followed by much larger grants in subsequent years as the parties involved implement the plan. If funds are available, this grant would add $300,000 in its second year and another $250,000 in its third year.

The hope is to create a pipeline of future teachers that could help Erie’s Public Schools improve the diversity of its faculty. Currently, only about 4 percent of the district’s 804 teachers come from diverse backgrounds – far less than the 59 percent of students in the district who come from diverse backgrounds.

This grant will create a program designed to provide a deeper learning experience for undergraduate and graduate student teachers working in the Erie Public Schools by lengthening the amount of time spent in the classroom – from about 14 weeks to a full year – and having them work with an expert mentor teacher.

“Teaching in city school districts is challenging and changing, and we need to step back and think outside the box,” said Janice Whiteman, director of Gannon University’s School of Education and its coordinator of Clinical Experiences. “We need to do a better job preparing our students to meet the challenges that exist in a city school district.

“What we hope is to attract the right fit for the City of Erie,” she said, “and give our students more skills.” 

Erie’s Public Schools has a need for more minority teachers, particularly those prepared and certified to teach in special education, math or science.

To that end, representatives from Gannon and the school district will draft a plan to recruit candidates to the program, including the use of financial support “that eliminates or significantly reduces financial burdens for candidates,” according to the grant.

The intent is to create a program that “increases diversity among teachers and leaders in the education pipeline, including low-income student residents, residents of color and first-generation student residents.”

“Increasing the diversity of our staff to better reflect the families and students we serve every day remains one of key priorities, and we’re looking forward to partnering with Gannon University to help us achieve that goal,” said Teresa Szumigala, the district’s director of human resources.

Whiteman, who will oversee the grant on behalf of Gannon, said she believes this is an important way to help future teachers in the City of Erie.

“I think it is a win-win for both of us,” she said.

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