Laura Eicher has been named director of the Clemson University College of Education Teacher Residency Program. Eicher has served as coordinator of the program for the last two years and will assume the role officially in May 2021.
In the role, Eicher will manage all aspects of the program, including working with residents and mentor teachers and the faculty, staff and district partners involved in the program. Eicher will also seek grant and philanthropic support in order to expand the program.
According to Michelle Cook, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the College, Eicher’s extensive experience in the role makes her the ideal candidate for the job, and she has proven over the last two years to be uniquely suited to the many aspects that define it.
“Laura has and will continue to ensure the best possible matches and placements with trained mentor teachers for our teacher residents,” Cook said. “She has demonstrated the ability to manage a large-scale project by understanding the bigger picture while being able to juggle multiple tasks.”
Eicher said the variety of tasks in front her is an aspect of the job she enjoys. She said she finds the work challenging and rewarding because she truly believes in the benefits of the program, and that it is gratifying to work with teacher residents who are the highest quality students devoted to becoming the most effective teachers possible.
She has also enjoyed working with district partners in her time coordinating the program. She said representatives from each district are true partners in the process and do a wonderful job of choosing the best mentor teachers who are not only committed to the students in their classroom but are also dedicated to developing new teachers.
“I have seen firsthand how much our residents grow as educators, and I hear from mentor teachers how much their students benefit from having two teachers during the residency,” Eicher said. “It is a privilege to work with so many people committed to improving education in our state.”
At the heart of the residency program is the College of Education‘s combined degree option for undergraduate education students. This degree option replaces student teaching in a student’s final undergraduate semester with graduate education classes, and the following year is comprised of a year-round teacher residency with an experienced master teacher who continuously gathers data about a resident’s progress to provide targeted support and feedback.
Residents spend the year-round residency in a district school, moving from a collaborative, co-teaching role in the classroom to an increasingly demanding, lead-teaching role. Using a variety of instructional coaching strategies, master teachers provide valuable insight into effective teaching methodologies, helping residents develop the knowledge and skills that come from years of experience.
Eicher has an extensive list of things she wants to accomplish as director of teacher residency, but she said her first priority is program evaluation. The college has collected a large amount of data from teacher residents, both during and after their completion of the program, so Eicher looks forward to further examining this data in order to continue to measure the program’s success and make improvements based on outcomes.
“We will soon have three cohorts of residents who have completed the program,” Eicher said. “While we have evidence that the residency program successfully prepares effective teachers, we need to provide additional data that the program is making a difference in student achievement outcomes as well.”
After this evaluation is complete, Eicher plans to then focus on expanding the program to other parts of the state, specifically in areas with underperforming schools and high teacher attrition. Part of this goal is securing grant funding to help support and diversify the pool of teacher residents.
Expansion of the program is a key component in its future, bringing it even more into alignment with the college and University’s land-grant mission, according to George J. Petersen, founding dean of the College.
“Teacher residency programs have been shown to improve teacher recruitment and retention and produce more effective teachers, and there are several districts seeking to improve teacher turnover rates and student outcomes that could benefit from a teacher residency program,” Petersen said. “Our program produces best-in-class teachers who remain in the profession, so we want nothing more than to replicate the success we’ve had in as many different areas as possible.”
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