Cincinnati Training Academy Makes Teachers the Customer, Not the Captive

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Cincinnati doesn't just help its aspiring teachers, it also offers top-notch growth opportunities for its current ones.

Participate in our new interactive TOWN MEETING; an electronic roundtable on improving schools

At the Mayerson Academy for Human Resource Development here, teachers who enter the building's sleek, modern facade have access to a wide array of courses and technologies designed to enhance professional learning.

It's open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Saturday, 50 weeks a year. Although it's hard to imagine a teacher not wanting to come by, its organizers promise that their intent is not to drag anyone in.

"Most everything is done on a voluntary basis," explained Larry G. Rowedder, the academy's president. "We see teachers as customers, not as captives."

Established in 1992 with private contributions, the nonprofit center represents a partnership between the city's public schools and business community. The seven-member governing board includes the district's superintendent, school board president, teachers' union president, and four others from outside the school system.

To free the academy from budget threats and administrators' whims, it has been set up to maintain some separation from the school system. In fact, schools Superintendent J. Michael Brandt proudly declares the academy to be "superintendent proof."

Still, the academy has a contract with the district to serve Cincinnati's teachers, who can attend courses there free of charge. But other teachers and districts from around the country have paid to attend. The academy served a total of 3,000 teachers in 1996.

High-Tech and Homey

Once inside, teachers can take advantage of core courses, through which they can earn graduate-level equivalency credits, or take one-time special-topic "action labs."

Participating teachers experience interactive learning through the academy's extensive high-tech accouterments. Yet, the academy offers homey touches as well. The food is plentiful, with fresh-baked cookies offered every afternoon.

What's more, teachers can sit in comfortable chairs that are built for adults rather than youngsters.

All of this first-class treatment is, of course, offered for a reason. "We're going to treat teachers with the respect and dignity that professionals deserve," Mr. Rowedder said, "knowing that they're going to go back and treat students the same way."

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