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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A new, unique teacher residency program in the Circle City wants to focus on bringing more diverse teachers to the classroom in hopes they’ll stay there.

Javonte Williams is learning what it takes to become a teacher. For the last few months, he’s been assisting in a first grade classroom as a co-teacher at Circle City Prep.

“I’m in a classroom with a lead teacher who’s experienced, and it’s taught me a lot so far,” said Williams.

Not only is he a teaching assistant, he’s also a student himself. Williams is part of the Relay Graduate School of Education. The teacher residency program launched in Indianapolis this summer. In some cases, teachers already have their degrees. In Williams’ case, his major at Indiana State University was not teaching.

“They were diverse and that they actually worked with you and gave you the things you needed before actually becoming a lead teacher,” said Williams.

Carlotta Cooprider is the dean of Relay Graduate School of Education. She says what stands out is how the program works.

“Teachers can come through our program and go through something we call a residency model, so very similar to the medical residency where it combines theory and practice,” said Cooprider. “They have a resident adviser that gives them on the spot, real-time feedback about their teaching.”

The material teachers are learning at Relay can be anything from classroom management, building relationships with the community, parents and students, or it could be related to the teaching cycle, like lesson planning and assessments. During the first year of the program, participants are teacher assistants. In the second year of the program, they become teachers and eventually earn a master’s degree in education.

“There can be so many challenges and so many failures that it’s easy to give up, and we know from the research that a percentage of our teachers are giving up,” said Cooprider.

The program wants to focus on teacher retention while aiming to recruit diverse teachers in the city.

Cooprider added, “We know the research tells us that it’s always really powerful for students to have teachers that have common backgrounds, common identity markers as them.”

The gradual approach was brought to Indy with the help of nonprofit The Mind Trust.

“Because the job feels small, initially, it will lead to a better retention long term,” said Sara Marshall, the senior director of talent for The Mind Trust. “There’s more than one way to get into teaching, and teaching never goes away and that you can always join.”

Relay Graduate School of Education is partnering with Indianapolis Public Schools and six other charter schools to partner teaching assistants into classrooms in hopes they’ll be able to land a job following their training.

There are currently 10 students in the first class at Relay. The graduate school plans to expand in following years.

Click here to learn more about Relay Graduate School of Education.