Training program

An SFUSD training program that diversifies the teaching staff

Josefina Matus, 46, behavioral therapist and mother of 11, always wanted to be a teacher. So when she was accepted into the San Francisco Unified School District Pathway To Teaching program, she was overwhelmed. She couldn’t believe that she – a Latina – could get the job. “I’ve always had teachers from other cultures,” and it was rare to meet teachers who looked like me, she says.

Matus joined the Pathway program in 2019 and has been teaching and managing a classroom ever since.

The Pathway program, launched in the 2017-18 academic year, is now in its fifth iteration, with an average of approximately 59 interns each year. The program gives teachers quick access to classrooms. Interns begin their courses in the spring, undergo six weeks of intensive training over the summer, and begin teaching at the start of the academic year while simultaneously fulfilling their graduation requirements.

The program is designed to attract those who might not have been able to continue their education, “such as an after-school activity provider or parent, who cannot attend school full time”, and must be paid a salary, said Kristina Alvarez, who oversees the program.

Once trainees start teaching, they manage one of three areas: special education, bilingual Spanish, or multiple subjects. Matus has chosen the special education stream and supports children who need help in reading, mathematics and behavior. “I teach, I am a case manager and I observe the students in the classrooms,” she explained.

Matus enjoys her job and finds it fulfilling, especially in times when she sees a student gain confidence in his own abilities. She told the story of a fourth grader who has difficulty reading. He is often frustrated and feels like the rest of the class is laughing at him. Matus finally walked up with the boy when he found a marble and walked over to show it to him. Instead of making him anxious by removing the ball, Matus offered to play a game. She locked the ball in her fist and asked him to choose the hand in which it was held. He kept choosing the wrong hand since Matus had skillfully hidden the ball in his sleeve. When the boy started to laugh, “a natural, genuine laugh, I knew then that I had touched his soul. That’s when I connected with him, ”said Matus, adding that there were a lot of such moments in his work.

The program was launched for “the predicted teacher shortage” and “to diversify the teaching staff in San Francisco, to ensure that teachers in San Francisco are more representative of the students,” Alvarez explained.

The shortage of teachers is still a problem in the school district. Laura Dudnick, public relations manager at SFUSD, wrote in an email that there are 42 classroom teaching positions available at the moment. And that “special education positions have been the most difficult to recruit and hire this year.”

Retention is also a consideration, and Alvarez stressed that they are looking for candidates from San Francisco who have connections to communities and schools in the city. Matus is originally from San Francisco, grew up in the Portola Valley area, and previously had connections with SFUSD after working as a para-educator in the late 90s.

As for the program’s second diversity goal, 77% of the current cohort are teachers of color.

Current cohort race / ethnicity data sent by PTT staff:

Native American or Alaska Native

2%

Black or African American

11%

Asian

20%

Latinx / Hispanic

28%

Middle East / Arabic

2%

Multiracial

15%

I prefer not to disclose

4%

White

17%

The Pathways program, according to Matus, is a “plan B” for candidates who want to teach while earning their teaching degrees, instead of spending time and money on earning a master’s degree in education. “But plan B doesn’t make you less professional or less intelligent,” she argued.

While it is worrisome that teachers without graduation manage children, the other option is much more dismal: classrooms without teachers. Schools statewide are struggling to fill positions, especially in special education, math, and science, and struggle with high turnover due to low salaries and high student loans. A 2018 Learning Policy Institute report found that “Districts in California are facing shortages by hiring long-term replacements or teachers with lower degrees, leaving positions vacant, increasing class sizes, or canceling lessons “.

But teachers without a diploma are not an anomaly. Consider the Teach for America program, which recruits college graduates to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools that take in disadvantaged students after a simple five-week training program. A World Bank blog called it “the best-known alternative path to education.” Pathway to Teaching is not much different. A bachelor’s degree is required to apply for the program, and furthermore, the program ensures that trainees pursue their teaching requirements for a career in education throughout their life.

Pathway to Teaching has received funding from Salesforce and the district. Each intern also pays $ 5,000 for tuition fees. However, to offset the costs, trainees receive a salary as soon as they start teaching. “We keep the price affordable to make sure we lower the barriers to becoming a teacher in San Francisco,” Alvarez commented. The starting salary for student teachers is $ 54,289.

However, Matus admitted that the salary is not enough to live in SF. “Because I’m married and my husband has a high paying job, I can have a career as a teacher,” she said. Even after two years as a teacher and with two salaries, she and her husband cannot afford to live in San Francisco. They are in Patterson, Stanislaus County, 90 miles away.

One of the questions asked of Matus during the interview process was how she related to the students. She remembers responding that since she was shy herself, she could identify the student left behind. “The one who doesn’t answer, the shy student. The neglected student.

While not perfect, the Pathway to Teaching program places teachers like Matus in the most at-risk classrooms and fills the gaps in our schools for the benefit of our children.

Jaya Padmanabhan is a journalist and author and director of programs for Ethnic Media Services. Twitter: @jayapadmanabhan.

The registration deadlines for Pathway To Teaching are October 3 and November 21. For more information :https://www.sfusd.edu/pathway-teaching/about-pathway-teaching.


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