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Shreveport principal supports 'medical model' training for teachers

Kate Archer Kent

A Shreveport elementary school principal was invited to Capitol Hill earlier this month to attend a brainstorming Congressional forum and give closing remarks. The focus was on how the path to becoming a teacher could be modeled after the medical profession. 

Teachers who graduate with four years of college are often thrown into classroom situations they're not totally prepared for, according to Mary Harris, principal of South Highlands Magnet Elementary School.

Harris, who has been a National Board Certified Teacher since 2005, said a semester or two of student teaching is not enough preparation to yield success in the classroom.

“They spend about a year trying to get things together and figure it out. Whereas, if we established residencies for them, they’d get to work with an established, accomplished teacher, and already have that all figured out by the time they have their own classroom," Harris said.

Harris was one of 14 National Board Certified Teachers who participated in this discussion with members of Congress who are also physicians. The forum was organized by the National Board. She says there was strong support for setting up a residency model for new teachers who are fresh out of college and have little exposure to the classroom.

“You never get to totally see a whole year of what a teacher actually does before you step into the classroom. Creating a residency period would let all of that happen. The teacher would get paid in the process, just like they do with doctors," Harris said.

Lawmakers discussed whether federal dollars could be leveraged for the medical model residency. South Highlands Magnet currently has 13 National Board Certified teachers. Harris said this coveted designation helps to make the teaching profession more respected, like medicine.