Friday, August 20, 2021

Afterschool as a Teacher Pathway

By Sam Piha

Source: A Natural Fit: Supporting After-School Staff of Color in Teacher Pipelines

Our national teacher shortage predated COVID-19, however there is growing evidence that suggests that the shortage of educators will grow in coming years as due to the pandemic. According to Linda Darling-Hammond “The COVID-19 pandemic has further strained an already faltering pipeline of qualified teachers. Resuming in-person instruction and meeting the needs of students will require a stable, high-qualified teacher workforce. It’s more important than ever that states and districts invest in proven solutions that address ongoing teacher shortages.” 

You can view our paper on this topic here. We also conducted a webinar, which you can view here.

We also know that families of color were disproportionately affected by COVID-19. This will only exacerbate the shortage of teachers of color. Why is this important? Research findings from Teachers of Color: In High Demand and Short Supply tell us, “Teachers of color boost the academic performance of students of color, including improved reading and math test scores, improved graduation rates, and increases in aspirations to attend college; students of color and white students report having positive perceptions of their teachers of color, including feeling cared for and academically challenged, and greater diversity of teachers may mitigate feelings of isolation, frustration, and fatigue that can contribute to individual teachers of color leaving the profession when they feel they are alone.

Afterschool/ out of school time (OST) programs can be part of the solution. There are many reasons to think about OST as a teacher pathway. The first is that the knowledge and skills that OST workers gain is very similar to those required of teachers. On a personal note, my experience as an afterschool worker led me to serve as a classroom teacher for 10 years. 

Another reason is that many OST workers are people of color and bring a unique understanding of the community that their young people reside in. 

After-school/OST workers, particularly those with longer tenure in those settings, bring essential skills in building relationships with students and families, fostering positive classroom communities, and managing instruction. As teachers of color, they also bring an understanding of the varied strengths and needs of students of color and find a great deal of meaning and commitment in working with students of color. Yet these essential skills are not sufficiently recognized and viewed as assets in the teacher preparation experience.
 - A Natural Fit: Supporting After-School Staff of Color in Teacher Pipelines 

Resources to learn more:
Source: A Natural Fit: Supporting After-School Staff of Color in Teacher Pipelines

Implementing Grow Your Own programs at the district level that recruit teacher candidates from nontraditional populations (e.g., high school students, paraprofessionals, and after-school program staff." - Diversifying the Teaching Profession: How to Recruit and Retain Teachers of Color

To learn about grow your own programs we interviewed Priscilla Parchia (Program Manager, Expanded Learning) and Soo Hyun Han-Harris (Coordinator, Retention and Employee Development) about Oakland Unified School District's (OUSD) After School to Teacher Pipeline program

Q: Can you describe what the Afterschool to Teacher Pipeline is about?
A: OUSD’s After School To Teacher Pipeline is a program designed to support out-of-school-time professionals to make progress towards a California Teaching Credential. We do this through intentional test prep support, peer support through a cohort model, guidance navigating the licensure process, professional development for resumes, interviewing, and professional conduct support as well as a small stipend to support with testing and application fees. Our goal is to help create and nurture a support system that they can continue to use throughout their career in OUSD. The program is also part of a larger umbrella of Grow Our Own initiatives designed to attract and retain teachers in OUSD. Participants commit to teaching in Oakland for 2 years for the support they receive. 

Q: Can you explain how the experience of afterschool workers are relevant to becoming a teacher. What advantages do these experiences offer? 
A: After-school staff are uniquely suited to teaching, particularly here in Oakland. Youth development practices are relationship-centered and focused on the whole child which is directly related to culturally competent teaching practices. Furthermore, many after-school staff have an already established interest in working with youth and often through their experience discover a desire to expand their career trajectory in education. 

Their work in afterschool gives them a unique and important perspective and experience of students and families that they can bring to bear in their teaching practice. In many ways the creative space within after-school programs allows staff to connect with students in ways that classroom teachers often can't. 
In addition, many after-school instructors and program coordinators are not only local to Oakland but to the 10 - 15 block radius of the school. This gives them an unprecedented perspective of a student's experience. 

We are also very drawn to the diversity of after-school program staff as it more closely reflects the demographics of our student populations. We know from experience and from research that being taught by somebody who shares your cultural background can have a tremendous impact on student outcomes. 

Q: What are the responses of OST workers to the program and what results have you seen?    
A: Participant responses have been overwhelmingly positive. The California teacher licensure process can be complicated and the demystification and resource sharing can go a long way in lighting the path for someone who is intent on becoming a classroom teacher. Many are placed at schools they are familiar with and are swiftly thrust into leadership roles because of their experience with classroom culture and engagement. 

Priscilla Parchia
is the Program Manager, Expanded Learning with OUSD. For the past 13 years, she has worked in the Bay Area with OUSD as a youth developer, teaching artist, teacher, and curriculum specialist. Priscilla stands for equity, empowerment, and peace for herself and all others and hopes to uplift the innovative and transformative work that is done in the out-of-school time field while cultivating space for this work to inform daytime school efforts to grow thriving, productive youth leaders with authentic agency.

Soo Hyun Han-Harris
is the Coordinator for Retention and Employee Development with OUSD. She has been an educator with OUSD since 2002. She discovered a passion for supporting the development of teachers while teaching and as the Coordinator of Retention and Employee Development, she supports the development of teacher pathways in OUSD and current and aspiring teachers to become credentialed. 

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