Almost 300 teachers and graduates of Memphis Teacher Residency will have access to a new training program this year called MTRUniversity.

Leaders of the teacher preparation organization say the supplemental program will help their teachers-in-training learn across all four years of their residency, plus offer training opportunities for program graduates. In their first year, MTR residents work alongside teachers with Shelby County Schools and the Achievement School District while attending classes through Union University. In their second year, they apply to jobs with the district in neighborhoods that MTR partners with.

“We realized we were losing three-fourths share of opportunity to continue teaching our teachers new things,” said Matt Campbell, MTR’s director of graduate development.

The additional support and training also should help with teacher retention, said Stephanie Williams, an MTR instructional coach.

“For 20 years, I’ve seen the ups and downs of what it’s like to be a teacher and the struggles new teachers have without support,” said Williams, a former educator with Shelby County Schools. “We did what we could, but it wasn’t enough. Data shows how many new teachers leave within three to five years because of lack of support.”

Only 41 percent of new teachers in Tennessee teach three consecutive years, according to the 2014 Tennessee teacher preparation report card from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. In comparison, 70 percent of MTR graduates from 2012-2013 completed their three-year teaching requirement. MTR reported in 2014 that, for its total number of residents up to that point, 91 percent had completed their three-year commitment.

That’s why MTR is getting into the professional development game: to better support teachers in skills learned on the job, such as classroom management and creating a classroom culture. Teachers who feel supported are more likely to stay, Williams said.MTRU logo

“It’s meant to be everything that the books didn’t cover that you’re going to need,” she said. “I know what I learned in college wasn’t enough, but I had teachers older than me that cared enough walk alongside me. That’s what we’re doing here. That’s what’s needed here.”

MTR is a Christian-based nonprofit organization, launched in 2009, that has developed a strong track record in recruiting and developing teachers for Memphis.

MTRUniversity’s first classes will be held July 11-12 and are open to all MTR teachers. Many are designed for those in their first year of teaching solo. Sessions are planned for the fall and next spring as well. The MTR staff picks some of the sessions, and MTR teachers can submit requests for other relevant courses.

A highlight this summer will be sessions on how to address trauma-related issues in the classroom, which will be taught by Memphis Family Connection Center.

“We recognize that many of our teachers have students coming into the classroom with deep emotional stress,” Campbell said. “These sessions will cover addressing behavior when typical techniques of management fail.”

Most classes will be taught by current Memphis teachers, which MTR leaders view as an asset.

“The further along in a classroom you get, the easier it is to only think about what’s going on in your classroom and building, but this is a great way to see what other people are doing well,” said Courtney Humphreys, an elementary coach with MTR. “Teachers in classroom currently are the most aware of current practices and are able to speak really honestly about works and what doesn’t work.”

Session topics for the July 11-12 dates include:

  • Classroom systems for efficiency
  • Daily 5: Fostering literacy independence
  • Creating a culture of thinking in your classroom
  • Improving your guided reading
  • Screening and discussion of documentary “Beyond Measure,” which will serve as the Memphis debut of the 2015 film about public education in America