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WW Academy: District Partners

Most higher education institutions and teacher preparation programs have working relationships with local K–12 schools. Teacher candidates are placed in these schools, which also hire graduates and offer continuing education opportunities.

The Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning wants to take those relationships further.

“We’re trying to reestablish what it means to be a partner,” says WW Academy Director of Clinical Practice and Student Support Rupal Jain. “What we’ve tried to do is really think about what a mutually beneficial partnership might look like. How can we be not only creating a space where we can place teacher candidates, but also creating this reciprocal dialogue where the district partners are coming in and actually imparting their expertise and knowledge to help us in building the Academy?”

As the WW Academy works on developing and fine-tuning aspects of the program like the challenge-based curriculum and assessments, they are collaborating with five Boston area public school districts: Burlington, Cambridge, Natick, Revere, and Somerville. By engaging with these districts as co-designers of the program, the WW Academy is ensuring that the curriculum and training reflect the real-world demands of today’s classrooms.

“These educators can help us understand what their day-to-day is like, what they can handle as far as time commitment, what supports exist for them to really thrive in the role,” says Ms. Jain. “Having all that information from the start of the design process helps to ensure we’re designing something that is rooted in the what’s happening in our districts. It gives us a clear view of the affordances and constraints that exist so that we create the best version of something possible.”

These exercises in design have also been beneficial for the educators and administrators in the districts. “That kind of meta-reflection by our master teachers is always a good thing,” says Anna Nolin, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching, Learning and Innovation of the Natick Public Schools. “It keeps them thinking about the craft of teaching and how they would mentor and how they would impart that information as part of their master teacher fellowship with us.”

Districts will also feel the effect as teachers prepared at the WW Academy teachers begin to make their way into local classrooms, first through clinical placement and eventually as teachers of record.

“When we actually have candidates who will be placed in the Natick public schools that we get to collaboratively grow and watch and nurture and support over a potential three-year period, that is the kind of apprenticeship model that other countries use to train teachers and that we should be using to train teachers,” says Dr. Nolin. “And that, we believe, will create high levels of success and efficacy with those teachers should they choose to remain in the Natick schools.”

But learning and collaboration will not stop once teachers are placed. By building strong relationships from the beginning, the WW Academy hopes to be a source of lifelong learning for educators. “There’s a trajectory of learning that starts before they enter their classroom as teachers of record, but it continues as they’re teachers moving forward,” says WW Academy Executive Director Deborah Hirsch. “We’re committed to providing a platform and a space for teachers to continue to learn throughout their careers.”

The WW Academy hopes that its design thinking and collaborative approach to building the program will foster a culture of innovation, growth, and investment in learning for everyone involved.

“I would like to approach all of my work here with the expectation that I am going to learn from the people I am working with,” says WW Academy Faculty Mentor in Mathematics Julianna Stockton. “Whether those people are 22 or 68, or veteran teachers or recent college graduates, or have been in industry, whoever they are—I really believe that I have seen the power of divergent thinking and different voices coming together and pushing something to a whole new viewpoint that no individual member of that group would have thought of on their own.”


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