NCTR asked Marisa Bier, Seattle Teacher Residency Program Director and Puget Sound STEM Residency Design Lead, about her team’s experience as Network Partner. Here are her thoughts on the NCTR/STR partnership, benefits of network membership, and collaboration among residency programs.

When did STR and NCTR begin their partnership?

The Seattle Teacher Residency (STR) has been a part of the NCTR family since 2012 and from our early program design and launch to the implementation of our program, NCTR has been a critical partner in the STR’s success. We continue to enjoy the benefits of our participation as a Network Partner on both a broad level and in our day-to-day work.

What features of the network partnership have you enjoyed the most?

NCTR introduced STR to residency program best practices and continues to position us as a resource for the emerging residencies it supports. As a residency mentor and as a mentee, we have received important opportunities to learn and grow. The NCTR team is so well versed in the unique features of each of its Network Partners, and is able to direct us to tools and resources that address our programmatic needs.

Additionally, NCTR is a valuable resource for information on developments and changes to national education policy. While STR is focused on local and state-level conversations around improving legislative and funding opportunities for residencies, NCTR’s strong presence in D.C. allows us to have an ear to the ground on federal initiatives that impact the national sustainability of the residency model.

Which of NCTR’s supports and resources have you most enjoyed?

NCTR assesses the progress and determines the needs of its member programs against quality standards they have created based on data from Network Partners, as well as teacher preparation experts. Based on those needs, NCTR has established numerous opportunities for partner-to-partner learning, both virtually and in-person.  Particularly impactful are the annual NCTR Symposium and Instructional Rounds events. Each year, Symposium content is driven by NCTR’s ongoing Critical Learning Initiative (CLI), which examines best and leading practices in teacher preparation in order to identify, develop, and offer services responsive to national and Network-specific teacher preparation trends.

This year’s CLI has focused on integrating college and career ready standards into partners’ teacher preparation curricula.  Instructional Rounds examine a Network-wide problem of practice by joining Network partners in a community of practice grounded in on-site observation and focused on program and instructional improvement. These experiences have afforded us opportunities to give and receive feedback, and more importantly, to build relationships and learn from other programs.

How has your involvement as a Network Partner fostered relationships with other residency programs?

Connections made as a Network Partner have resulted in new thought leadership and collaboration opportunities. Examples include:

  • ‘Role-alike’ collaboration through the Recruiter Roundtable: Residency recruiters across the Network meet to discuss problems of practice during a monthly webinar.
  • Program site visits: STR has taken its team to other Network Partner sites to better understand site structure, brainstorm opportunities for innovative practices, and learn from unique organizational features. We have also hosted visiting residency programs for similar learning sessions.
  • Shared resources and tools: NCTR Network Partners share materials such as handbooks, evaluation materials, learning activities, resident selection process data, and more.

Through the network, we’ve become familiar with the work of each other’s programs and have made connections directly as well as through NCTR. All of these opportunities both capitalize on our strengths and provide us with support in our areas of needed growth.

Final thoughts?

NCTR laid the foundation for STR to build a highly effective program that now serves as a model for emerging residency programs. We are proud to be a Network Partner and to have colleagues around the country who push us to improve teacher preparation so that children in our most challenged schools receive the equitable education they deserve.

Marisa Bier is the founding Program Director at the Seattle Teacher Residency, a partnership between the Alliance for Education, Seattle Public Schools, the University of Washington, and the Seattle Education Association. She has worked in education for 22 years, beginning her career in special education. She received her doctorate in Education from the University of Washington in 2009. Currently, Marisa is leading the design of a multi-district STEM residency program in Washington State.