Want to Teach?: Residency Program Helps Get Qualified Educators in the Classroom
Catherine Coulter seems like the perfect hire for any Fairfax County Public School community looking to bring on a new teacher. Coulter, who has a master’s degree in education, six years of classroom teaching experience, and is an FCPS grad herself, had long wanted to teach in the community where she grew up.
Amid headlines about national and regional teacher shortages, Coulter was eager to stay in the classroom. There was just one hiccup – Coulter has a middle school teaching certification, and she hoped to pivot to teaching elementary students.
A new FCPS teacher residency program is helping Coulter, and others like her, bridge the gap to start teaching this fall while finishing up requirements to become fully licensed in Virginia. Coulter will start this month as a fifth grade teacher at Fairview Elementary School in Fairfax Station, while taking a four week class in elementary education instructional methods.
“My end goal in being a teacher was always to come back to FCPS and work here,” said Coulter, who spent the last three years teaching in Washington, D.C.. “I had the best educational experience here and honestly the reason I wanted to become a teacher is because of the experience I had as a student in FCPS.”
Coulter has even previously taught fifth grade, but her former classroom was located in a middle school in D.C., so the discrepancy between her certification and what she was teaching was a non-issue, she says.
“I knew I would have to do some other things to officially become a certified elementary teacher in Virginia,” Coulter said. A teacher buddy told Coulter about the new FCPS residency program, and she learned just how close she was – she needed to pass the Praxis, a test used in Virginia to measure general and subject specific knowledge required of teachers, and take a four week course in elementary instruction methods.
“It can be confusing when you move and want to start teaching in a different state because every state has its own requirements for teachers,” Coulter said. “I talked to FCPS human resources and learned after my background and experience teaching in Louisiana and D.C. there were just these two little things I needed to do.”
“I thought well I can’t pass that up can I? I’m gonna have to jump on this one,” Coulter said. “This is really appealing and a pretty seamless way to get into teaching in FCPS.”
Fairview Principal Samantha Goldstein says the residency program comes at a critical time.
“We have a national teacher shortage crisis,” Goldstein said. “When FCPS created the teacher apprentice pathway it created opportunities for schools to hire highly educated and dedicated instructors for our classrooms while allowing them to complete some additional last steps in their Virginia certification at the same time.”
The residency is helpful in ensuring FCPS does not have to pull support staff from other duties or use substitutes to fill any classroom vacancies, Goldstein said.
Goldstein also tapped the program to bring another teacher, Bennett Rogers, to Fairview Elementary. Rogers, who has an undergraduate degree in education, middle school licensure and spent the past year working as a technology teacher and substitute in a private school, similarly needed to complete one course in elementary instructional methods to get her Virginia license.
“I had teaching experience at a private school, wanted to switch to teaching elementary and wasn’t sure if it would be possible this school year,” said Rogers, who will be a third grade teacher this fall. “When I found out this existed, I thought I should jump on it.”
Goldstein says the program meets the needs of qualified individuals trying to get hired in FCPS as well as principals like herself who want to be sure every classroom has a dedicated, experienced teacher.
“Catherine and Bennett are aspiring FCPS teachers and experienced educators in our nation,” Goldstein said. “This program allowed Bennett and Catherine to join the FCPS caring culture at the start of the school year, receive benefits, and receive all of the professional development that new teachers receive at the start of the school year while completing their licensure requirements.”
Learn more about the newly created FCPS teacher residency program.