Central Louisiana Instructional Partnership Graduates Begin Teaching Careers
Applications accepted for 2021 CLIP cohort
Nine individuals from Central Louisiana have completed an intense, 15-month teacher residency program and are now beginning their careers as middle-school math and science teachers.
They are the first graduates of the Central Louisiana Instructional Partnership, a paid teacher residency program with the goal of improving student achievement in rural school districts by preparing educators to teach in critical shortage areas – middle school math and science. The second cohort of 10 individuals began its residency in June, and recruitment is underway for the third of five cohorts. By the end of the five-year program, 44 new individuals will be teaching in Cenla schools.
CLIP is funded by a $4.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Quality Partnership Program, plus $8 million in-kind matched funding from project partners. The Orchard Foundation, the education arm of The Rapides Foundation, serves as the lead organization for CLIP. Project partners include the nine Central Louisiana school districts, NSU’s Gallaspy College of Education & Human Development and College of Business & Technology-Computer Information Systems; Urban Learning & Leadership Center; EvalWorks; and The Rapides Foundation.
“CLIP partners have worked together for many years to assess the challenges faced by the rural public school districts in Central Louisiana, confronting the enduring and often deeply entrenched obstacles to improved teaching and student achievement,” said Dr. Marjorie Taylor, Executive Director of The Orchard Foundation. “CLIP is leveraging this work to dramatically improve teacher preparation and ultimately work to close the achievement gap among rural students in an underserved region of Louisiana.”
Residents take part in a 15-month accelerated graduate program of study that culminates in a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from Northwestern State University and a professional teaching certification. CLIP residents receive a stipend to cover the expense of tuition, as well as an annual stipend of $36,000 during their residency. While completing their graduate coursework, CLIP residents work alongside a trained and experienced mentor teacher throughout the academic year in a high-needs school identified by the nine partner public school districts.
When they complete the program, graduates are placed in a school where they receive two years of support with an induction coach. CLIP graduates agree to teach in Central Louisiana schools for at least three years following graduation.
The 15-month CLIP residency begins in June. In the summer, residents attend monthly meetings at NSU’s Cenla Campus. When the school year begins, they work in the classroom with their mentors while also taking 9 hours of online classes each semester to work toward their master’s degrees. They also continue their monthly CLIP sessions, where NSU’s Computer Information Systems Department teaches them how to implement STEM lessons using the latest technology in their classrooms.
It’s an intense program that is intended to fully prepare graduates for their first year as middle-school teachers.
“Our goal is to have them walk in their classroom on Day 1 as an empathetic, knowledgeable, effective teacher. I want them to know their pedagogy, and I want them to know they are ready to teach,” said Jodi Howell, CLIP Facilitator/Mentoring Coordinator from NSU. “They walk in the classroom as certified middle school teachers. That’s one of the big things that parishes like.”
Throughout the process, residents develop a sense of camaraderie. “They have a strong sense of family because they are relating to each other and they understand the struggles,” Howell said.
Residents are men and women of all ages who hold undergraduate degrees and a desire to teach. Some residents are looking to change careers while others are recent college graduates, said Lindlay Howell, CLIP Field Coordinator. “Our residents are eager to learn,” she said. “We guide them through the process every step of the way and let them know that we will continue supporting them even after they graduate.”
The 2020 CLIP graduates and their fall teaching assignments are:
· Nicole Robinson, Allen Parish, Oakdale Middle School, math.
· Sarah Landry, Avoyelles Parish, Plaucheville Elementary, math.
· Stephanie Davis, Avoyelles Parish, Cottonport Elementary School, science.
· Kelcie Johnson, Grant Parish, Grant Junior High, science.
· Edgar “Lewis” Evans, LaSalle Parish, Jena Junior High, math.
· Randi Roberts, Rapides Parish, Brame Middle School, math.
· Blake Quales, Rapides Parish, Alexandria Middle Magnet, math.
· Kimberly Wilson, Rapides Parish, Tioga Junior High, science.
- Venus Nears, Winn Parish, Winnfield Middle, math.
As a juvenile police detective in Texas, Nicole Robinson of Oakdale witnessed firsthand the results of kids falling through the cracks. “I saw too much when I was on the force. It was just heartbreaking. I saw kids who were 13 or 14 in for murder. I was like ‘why are we losing this many kids to the system at this young age?’”
When she began helping a co-worker’s daughter with homework, Robinson realized she could make a positive change in young people’s lives by reaching them before they ended up in the criminal system. The timing was right. She had reached her 10-year-mark with the police force, had moved to Oakdale and was ready to make a career change when she heard about CLIP. Even though she had no training in education, her criminal justice degree, passion for helping young people and completion of CLIP application requirements landed her a spot in the first cohort.
The year was admittedly intense, but Robinson said the support and knowledge she gained from CLIP has given her the confidence to switch careers. “I brag about this CLIP program to everyone I know. The support they provide can’t be measured. They made me feel so comfortable to transition from law enforcement to education, and now going into my own classroom, I feel confident. I’m not nervous. I’m happy, and I’m excited.”
Blake Quales moved from Ohio to Central Louisiana in 2015 to be youth pastor at Tioga Wesleyan Methodist Church. He ran an auto repair shop with his brother-in-law, but his calling was teaching young kids. When he lived in Ohio, he had started a youth ministry for at-risk children and was a substitute teacher at a local middle school. He wanted to be an educator, but he didn’t see a way to switch careers while supporting his family. The CLIP program – with its stipend and continued professional support –allowed him to follow his dream.
“There’s no way I could have pursued this outside of the CLIP program. There’s no way financially I could have pursued it, and I wouldn’t have entered it without their support,” he said. “The way it was set up was picture perfect for my personality and for my situation. That stipend was a lifesaver. I view that as God opening those doors. There’s no other way to explain it.”
Quales appreciated the personal support from his mentor teacher, and feels comfortable starting his new career knowing he will have continued support from his induction coach.
“I’m very excited. Obviously it will have its own set of challenges because of COVID-19. But this is my first year as a teacher, so in a lot of ways I don’t know anything different. For me this is all new. I decided that I’m in this for the kids, so whatever I have to do, I’m doing it for them. I decided to be positive about it and try to be the difference in their lives.”
At the end of the academic school year, the CLIP residents took part in a technology showcase – virtually because of the COVID pandemic – to show off what they learned and how they plan to apply technology in the classroom. For example, science students will use their Chromebooks to study spiders in a lesson on genetics and math students will learn about ratios and rates by launching Lego robot racers. As graduate Randi Roberts explained, “I believe the technology gives the students a hands-on approach to real-life concepts.”
Edgar “Lewis” Evans of LaSalle Parish will be teaching seventh grade math this fall. “It’s been a blessing to be a part of the CLIP residency,” he said during his presentation. “I feel prepared to be in my own classroom. I know I still have a lot to learn, but I feel very confident, and it’s because of this program.”
The second cohort, which began its work in June, consists of three men and seven women. Three residents are pursuing a concentration in science and the others are pursuing math.
Recruitment is currently underway for the third cohort, which will begin its work in June 2021. To qualify, applicants must have earned a bachelor’s degree, must not have a teacher certification, and must meet Northwestern State University's Master of Teaching graduate school requirements.
To apply for CLIP, interested persons should complete and submit the CLIP application, release form, essay and a current resume. Application should also be made to NSU’s graduate school. Application forms and more details can be found at www.theorchardfoundation.org/clip. Interviews will be held in April.