RICHMOND, Va. — Leaders at Richmond Public School (RPS) shared details about a new program designed to fill teacher vacancies during their #TeachWithLove press conference on Tuesday.
Derek Hambright teaches 7th grade science at River City Middle School, and is a graduate of the VCU Richmond Teacher Retention (RTR) program.
“RTR was an amazing pathway for me to enter into the teaching profession from my prior career as a scientist,” Hambright recalled. “After that I was fully engulfed and in love with the teaching profession."
The group celebrated teachers and the launch of the RPS Build Our Own Teachers Program (or BOOT program) led by 2019 National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson and the Teacher and Leader Pathways Department.
The new BOOT program helps budding educators with a degree receive their teaching license for free with a three-year commitment.
“Right now, we have 75 teachers in the program. Of those 75 teachers, 20% are minority male, which is the focus of RVA Men Teach,” Robinson stated.
RPS Director of Talent Acquisition Helen Mickens-DeMena shared they have filled more than 400 positions since the end of the last school year.
The district has 117 classroom vacancies, which will be filled with long-term subs or participants in the new teaching program.
RPS reported vacancies among all elementary grade levels, math, science, English, Spanish and exceptional education — among other subjects.
“Teaching with love also means connecting with the students. Students don’t learn from people who they don’t trust and they don’t like,” Hambright explained.
But Hambright acknowledges it’s difficult to make that connection with persistent gaps within school staff.
“When you find that connection with your students learning is easy. But it is difficult to connect with your students when teachers are stretched too thin. That’s why we need more funding, and more programs like this to encourage people from Richmond and around the country to come and join our cause,” he recalled.
RPS also boasts the only paid teacher residency program at historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) in the country. This is a partnership with Virginia State University and Virginia Union University which started in 2022.
The Talent Acquisition Department, in collaboration with Teacher and Leader Pathways, will hold a License Fair on Sept. 30 at 9 a.m. at Huguenot High School.
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