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Framingham Teacher Residency program provides opportunities for FSU students

By Dylan Pichnarcik 

Asst. News Editor 


Framingham State and Framingham Public Schools welcomed a second cohort of education majors to join the Framingham Teacher Residency program (FTR) during AY 2023-24.


Program Coordinator Kaycie Hippolyte said FTR aims to “offer a unique opportunity” for people who identify as bilingual or multilingual to become licensed elementary or secondary education teachers. 


She said one of the goals is to “increase the number of licensed bilingual teachers in elementary ed., science, mathematics, English language arts, Portuguese and/or Spanish language arts, and history.


She said the program has recently expanded to offer the opportunity to work with children with moderate disabilities in special education.


Hippolyte said, “The Framingham Teacher Residency and AmeriCorps program grew from a need to support children in middle school.” 


This was made possible through “an initial grant of $1.7 million” through AmeriCorps in 2021, Hippolyte added. 


FTR is a federally backed program by AmeriCorps - a network of state organizations, including the Massachusetts Service Alliance - that focuses on disaster services, environmental stewardship, and education with “more than 51,000 members and volunteers supporting students in nearly 9,500 public, private, and charter schools across the country,” according to the AmeriCorps website.  


The Massachusetts Service Alliance (MSA) added the FTR to its portfolio in 2021, which greatly supported the program's expansion and provided leadership in the initial days. 


According to Wardell Powell, assistant director of FTR and professor of education, the program's inception was made possible through the Office of Grants and Sponsored Programs and Framingham Public Schools’ Human Resources Department to secure a planning grant for $125,000.”


Powell added, “ We then worked with various stakeholders across campus, Framingham Public Schools, Massachusetts Service Alliance, and the National Center for Teacher Residency to develop” the program.


FTR is overseen by faculty and staff from both Framingham State and Framingham Public Schools, including Director Kelly Mathews, professor of English; Director of Graduate Admissions Michael Merriam; Assistant Director of Teaching and Learning Wardell Powell; and from the City of Framingham, Director of Operations Everton Vargas da Costa; Superintendent of Human Resources Inna London; and Assistant Director of Human Resources Tiago Gadens. 


The FTR was established in 2022 to recruit “bilingual teachers who can fulfill the need to continue dual-language programs at the elementary, middle, and high school levels,” Hippolyte said.


She added, in Framingham Public Schools, the dual-language programs Spanish and Portuguese “have grown steadily as more and more children are transitioning from their home countries to the United States, especially with new waves of migration to Massachusetts.”


Framingham Public Schools are 41% Latino or Spanish-identifying, according to U.S. News and World Report, highlighting the need for recruiting bilingual teachers. Hippolyte said this is essential to their mission.


She said, “The goal of the program is to promote culturally responsive teaching within the Framingham Public School District and to send teachers out [into the workforce] who really promote that teaching ideology.” 


Hippolyte said 13 of the 18 past and present members of the program have identified as bilingual in Portuguese or Spanish. 


There are currently eight active participants in the program and 10 alumni. Currently, six of those alumni work within the Framingham Public School District, according to Hippolyte. 


She said the program has room for up to 20 FSU students. 


“One thing we try to promote within our program and try to actively recruit is getting members who are bilingual as a way to give more to the community,” Hippolyte said.


She added, “We are trying to find teachers with that background. We are not saying if you can’t speak Spanish, you can't be in the program - but we do try to promote that.” 


Lisa Eck, chair of the English department, said, “The district has a need for bilingual teachers specifically in Spanish and Portuguese and because there is such a large population of school-age children from immigrant families, it is hugely important they can speak with their teachers.”  


According to Hippolyte, the program employs six alumni at Fuller Middle School, Cameron Middle School, and Framingham High School, including Alejandra Lodoño, Spanish language teacher and site coordinator for the Teacher Home Visit Program at Framingham High School. 


“Being part of FTR was an amazing experience. There were ups and downs, but it was all worth it in the end,” Lodoño said.


“Through FTR, I was able to volunteer full-time in a school where I was able to learn about being a teacher and connecting with students for a full year, whereas as a student teacher, I wouldn't have had that much time in a classroom. The other benefit of the program was receiving a living stipend and full tuition,” she added.


Due to the length of the program, students in FTR are not considered first-year teachers, Hippolyte said, but rather second-year teachers with an entire academic year of experience. 


Along with the program being longer than a standard student teaching position, students in FTR are also partnered with a veteran teacher within FPS, faculty at FSU, and members of AmeriCorps who support and offer training to students in the program, according to Hippolyte. 


She added that members of FTR will “gradually take on the full responsibility for 75-80% of their mentor classes and will thereby earn the Massachusetts initial licensure in specific subject areas” in accordance with the Department of Secondary Education requirements.   


Hippolyte said the program differs from a standard student-teaching position due to the advantages students receive. “The foundation of it being a one-year program, you really get a longer time of experience of how it is in the school … as well as getting the benefits and  the culture of Framingham.” 


Powell said, “The faculty in the education department, in particular, Dean [Susan] Dargan and the department chair, Dr. [James] Cressey, have been very supportive of FTR from its inception. All FSU students who are interested in pursuing a career in education are welcome to participate in the Framingham Teacher Residency Program.


This partnership has supported students' ability to gain real-world experience and receive benefits for their time, according to Cressey. 


“The Education Department recognizes how challenging it is for students to complete a full-time semester of student-teaching practicum in order to pursue their goal of teacher licensure.


“Most undergraduate students are not paid employees of the host school during the practicum.


“The Framingham Teacher Residency is one example of programs we are pursuing that can create more equity for FSU students by covering some of these costs. The residency gives our students a high-quality training experience and a future career in Framingham, a diverse, vibrant school district that we have a strong partnership with,” Cressey added.


Students enrolled in the FTR receive several benefits, including a living stipend of $25,000, free tuition at FSU, an educational stipend, free lunch at Framingham Public Schools, access to the FSU gym, and a health insurance contract with Framingham Public Schools. 


After the residency, they also earn a starting salary of $53,089, according to the Framingham Public Schools’ website.


Hippolyte said FTR alumni have also found jobs in the Worcester Public School System and the Waltham Public School System.


Powell said recently, “ Several school districts around have reached out to us, and are interested in partnering with FTR.”

 

Eck commended the program. “The Framingham Teacher Residency program represents Framingham State at its best in terms of responding to the community.” 


Prospective Framingham State students interested in pursuing the program can apply at www.framingham.k12.ma.us


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