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Dallas College's Innovative Apprenticeship Program Creates an Affordable Pathway to Teaching

Dallas College is making history with its new teacher apprenticeship program – the first program of its kind in Texas. Responding to a community wide need for more educators, Dallas College created a paid apprenticeship pathway to build a steady pipeline of well-trained teachers in Dallas County. This apprenticeship model gives aspiring teachers a chance to gain real-world experience and earn a salary with a partner school district while earning a degree or certificate.

For Dallas College Dean of Educator Pathways Sara DeLano, the move to an apprenticeship model was natural. “The research is very clear that in order to effectively prepare new teachers, they need as much practice as possible working with students,” said DeLano. “And in that practice space, they need to get feedback from expert educators about what they're doing well and where they need to improve.”

This tuition-free, work-based apprenticeship provides student teachers an accessible, supportive pathway to teaching centered on practical experience. Students can simultaneously earn a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education for under $10,000 (the first degree program of its kind at a Texas community college). This affordable pathway helps reach students that have been historically shut out of higher education.

Dallas College Associate Dean of Early Childhood Education and Early Learning Daisy Cano-Esparza helps place students in year-long apprenticeships with community partners. “The apprenticeship program allows you to experience [teaching], to live it while you have the support systems to help you to be successful and to put [the lessons] into practice,” said Cano-Esparza.

Not only does the apprenticeship program help get more teachers in the classroom, but research demonstrates that “those with more training in teaching methods and pedagogy—especially practice teaching,” like the apprenticeship provides, “were far less likely to leave teaching after their first year on the job." Because of this unique experience, Cano-Esparza says “you’ll have more longstanding teachers, because they understand the role, they know what is expected, but they also enjoy it.”

This has certainly been true for Logan Aman, a current Resident 5th Grade Teacher at Stults Road Elementary in Richardson Independent School District (ISD) – one of the inaugural partner districts. For the final year of her Bachelor’s degree program, Aman follows the schedule of a full-time teacher and gradually takes on more responsibilities in her classroom throughout the year.

Richardson ISD has ten resident teachers this year, and Aman was eager to be one of them. “They really take care of their teachers, and I've been really impressed by the way that Richardson has welcomed the residents in and has made sure that we are getting our full experience out of this residency,” said Aman.

For Aman, what sets the teacher apprenticeship program apart is the financial and student supports. “None of us had to really take a huge financial hit by working for free, like a lot of student teachers do for a full year. We are able to be compensated and paid a living wage while we're doing this,” said Aman. In addition to compensation, students have access to peer, faculty, and leadership support through Dallas College. “I've never heard of another opportunity like this with all of the accommodations for the student while still getting to learn and grow as a teacher,” she continued.

This is intentional according to Dean DeLano in the school’s effort to bolster the teacher pipeline: “Because we are able to offer a Bachelor's degree that's so affordable, because as a community college, we are very focused on holistic student supports, which is something that we see across the community college network. I think that we are very well positioned to expand the pie and greatly expand the number of aspiring educators who can enter the profession.”

Aman is set to graduate with the first cohort of apprentice teachers from Dallas College this summer. Given her experience with the program so far, she feels ready and prepared to take on a classroom of her own. “I think it's really going to crank out some excellent teachers, and I think it's a very valuable resource for the districts that are involved in the program as well as Dallas College.”

Stay tuned for more on Dallas College’s innovative teaching program with an in depth look at another pathway – the adaptive residency program.

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