Fresno Teaching Fellows Enhances After School Programs and Teacher Pathways

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On any given day after school hours in Fresno County you might find laughing students flying balloon-powered contraptions across a cafeteria. Upon their contraptions landing, you would find them measuring how far their objects traveled, and charting this information on graphs as part of a lesson in propulsion. On another part of campus after-school you may find students break dancing until they are tired, and then sitting down to a lesson on nutrition and physical activity. These students are engaged in standards-based experiential education by the Teaching Fellows program.

Teaching Fellows is an academic assistance and enrichment program that began in 1996 based upon the California Mini-Corps model. The program model is to recruit local college students who are on a teaching career path and place them in various after-school and enrichment programs in their area. The program began with a handful of Teaching Fellows working with one school site. Since then the program has expanded to provide over 200 Teaching Fellows and are currently operating in around 40 schools. The demand has led to development of a non-profit organization that promotes University partnerships and increases the pool of highly qualified, trained staff in the after-school field. This replicable model is being expanded into surrounding Counties. Teaching Fellows partners with local school districts and usually is funded through ASES and 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding.

The Teaching Fellows offers college students a living stipend, ongoing training, and a partnership with local colleges offering 3 units per semester in related coursework for participation in the program. Perhaps one of the most important things that the program offers is experience. Steve Price of California State University, Fresno noted that many of the program’s college students went on to find placements teaching at their school sites.

In return college students commit to 15 hours per week with the Teaching Fellows, working around their school schedule. On their school site they relate with teachers to work effectively with students on what they need to develop in their coursework. Teaching Fellows college student participants agree to maintain a 3.0 GPA, participate in training events throughout the semester, and attend one “Saturday Academy” each month. Saturday academy consists of new experientially based trainings on topics such as lesson design, assets-based youth development, and classroom management. It is also a time for teams to debrief how they can improve programs at their school sites.

In addition, 25 underrepresented local high school students are offered a four-year college scholarship every year through the Teaching Fellows program! These are students who have maintained a 3.5 GPA in high school, been involved in leadership, are interested in being teachers. These individuals then go through a rigorous screening process, and dedicate themselves to four years of service in the Teaching Fellows program. These students begin their coursework and their after-school teaching work their freshman year of college. They attend a weeklong training prior to beginning after-school instruction and enroll in a group communication class together their first year. According to Steve Price, this recruitment offers local students who mirror the cultural makeup of the community the opportunity to participate in local service learning opportunities. This model also serves to provide local role models for local students. Price believes this increases perceived college access for after school students.

Through partnership with Universities, Teaching Fellows has been able to bring energetic, trained staff onto school campuses after school hours. These individuals partner with teachers and provide experiential standards-based education and enrichment for K-12 students. Through experience and staff development the program allows future teachers hands-on service learning opportunities. Whether it is through hands on science or break dancing, Teaching Fellows are engaging students in their education.

If you have any questions about the Teaching Fellows Program you can contact Anne Murphy; Teaching Fellows Program Director at annem@csufresno.edu