Education Chat

Growing Teachers

Sara Rogers, head coordinator of the Urban Teacher Academy Program in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. answers questions on the formation and structure of UTAP, on the viability of grow-your-own teacher programs, and on other issues in teacher recruitment and development.

Growing Teachers

GUEST: Sara Rogers, head coordinator of the Urban Teacher Academy Program in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Scott Cech (Teacher Magazine) (Moderator)
Good afternoon, and welcome to Teacher Magazine and’'s Live Chat. Joining us from Broward County, Florida, is Sara Rogers, a veteran principal who came out of retirement to oversee the launch of the Urban Teacher Academy Program, a grow-your-own effort to expand the pool of new teachers eager to work in local schools. The unique initiative gives select high school students four years of teaching instruction, financially supports them through college, then guarantees them Broward County teaching jobs when they collect their degrees and certifications. Although UTAP is just beginning to graduate students, education-policy watchers are already taking note of the program, not only because it represents Broward’'s best hope of eventually reversing its staggering teacher shortage, but also because it may serve as a replicable model for other hard-to-staff urban districts throughout the United States. I’m Scott Cech, managing editor of Teacher Magazine, and I’ll be moderating this discussion with Ms. Rogers on UTAP, attracting quality teachers to challenging districts, and the perennial problem of funding. We’re getting lots of questions for Ms. Rogers already, so let’s get right to them.

Question from Carolyn Lott, Chair, Curriculum and Instruction, University of Montana:
What dispositions (personal habits and attitudes) do you look for in the potential teacher candidates and how do you measure them?

Sara Rogers:
Interest in working with children in some capacity, teacher (middle school and 9th grade references, participation in Future Educators, young men who have an interest in coaching or other school activities and may want to continue as adults

Question from Rosie Buser, Oshkosh Area School District:
How do you encourage minority students to enter the program? Is there a high school GPA requirement?

Sara Rogers:
Our scholarship opportunities offer a great enticement to those students. In addition their clinical experiences are at the schools they attende as elementary students. Once the program gets a year or so under its belt word of mouth and student to student recruitment promotes participation. There is no requirement other than meeting graduation standards and predictability of passing the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. Tutorial support is available throughout all four years of high school. College partners and 21st Century grant provide this.

Question from Detra Davis, Consultant,
UTAP sounds great, however I wanted to know if this program is open just to high school students? Would baby boomers and mid-life professionals be able to participate in this program? Perhaps those who retire “young” and want to contine to work or give back to the community... and to children? I question the loyalty and committment of high school students and wonder what would motivate them to “stay” in education. How do you convince the students to stay in the field?

Getting young folks committed to working in education is one thing, keeping them there with current teacher salaries being what they are is something quite different....

Detra D. Davis Consultant

Sara Rogers:
Broward Public Schools and the partners in the Broward Educational Consortium have extensive programs for teaching as a second career or for those who did not choose to become certified in college. The extensive experiences provided for the high school students convices them either that are dedicated or not. We have found students to be quite savvy about the “perks” other than salary. Many have dealt with their parents’ difficulties with health insurance, retirement,etc.

Question from Rosie Buser, Ohkosh Area School Distict:
What do you do with college students who do not continue in education after being funded by your program for two-three years?

Sara Rogers:
We monitor their progress every semester while in college and require them to participate in cohort-support meetings monthly. They sign an agreement to teach one year for each year of scholarship. We hope to recoup the funds if they opt out, but are uncertain how practical the recovery of funds may be. We feel that if we are doing our job, they will stay.

Question from Mark Kamerzell, Teacher, Alliance High School:
What steps are taken to guarantee quality teachers stay in the district and don’t move elsewhere? What steps are taken when a teacher fails to provide a quality education, but you have guaranteed them a job?

Sara Rogers:
We are establishing a mentoring program using National Board Certified teachers for the first three years.Statistics say that is when we lose them. We closely monitor all of their higher ed clinical experiences and will place them in our Urban Academy affliated schools for student teaching. We are proud that our graduating high school seniors are as good as many beginning teachers I have observed as a principal. We believe they will only get better.

Question from Deb Winans, graduate student, University of Souhern Mississippi:
Please discuss how teacher candidates will receive support through mentors. Also, describe the training and support the mentors receive through UTAP. Thanks

Sara Rogers:
National Board certified teachers offer both electronic and personal support. They may choose this as one of the options to meet requirements for their stpend. Coaching and mentoring training is offered through various routes-- Human Resource Development as peer teachers,Broward Teacher Guild (former teachers of the year) and Urban Academy staff trainings and regularly scheduled cooperating teacher meetings.

Question from Celeste Romano,teacher,formerly employed by the Hempstead Public Schools in Long Island,New York:
Could you briefly describe the curriculum used for teacher prep courses given at the high school level?

What criteria are used to determine who is granted full-ride scholarships to major in education as an undergraduate?

How much consideration is given to the area of education that the applicant is interested in pursuing? Does the program require a minor in, let’s say, the areas of math, science or second/foreign language instruction?

Sara Rogers:
The curriculum parallels Introduction to Education at our partner higher eds. It was written by a public university professor, a private university professor and two Broward teachers. At the end of the four credit program (one course each year) students are granted 3 hours of dual enrollment credit. We are working diligently to encourage students to undertake study in critical shortage areas. In Broward we have a shortage of secondary teachers and counsel students to pursue the areas of study they are most gifted in and then teach in secondary schools if they are at all interested.

Question from Lisa Vickery, Parent, Tucson Unified School District and Exceptional Parent Project:
Does your program seek out and encourage Special education teachers? If so, how? If not, why not?

Sara Rogers:
We offer them exposure to all different fields within education: ESE, Guidance, Media, Speech Pathlogy and School Psychology to name a few. (Included in this is experience with special ed students)

Question from Jean Van Wyck, Teacher, Seminole County Fl:
Many high school teacher prep programs are only targeting their honor students. Just because a student can make straight A’s in class doesn’t mean that they are “teacher material”. It takes much more than an “A” in honors chemistry to make a good teacher. A lot of average students are being overlooked for these programs. I beleive that these programs need to look a little further than a students GPA. A good teacher needs to be personable, flexible and knowledgeable. The “brains” in my graduating class would have made terrible teachers! Why don’t we look for students who are dedicated, ambitious and determined to succeed in life?

Sara Rogers:
Please see the previous answers.

Question from Joe Rueff, President, Eye2theWorld:
While this is a natural method for districts like Broward County’s to try to deal with a teacher shortage problem, there are also negatives.

How can the district maintain a diversity of teachers from many environments, both ethnically and geographically? It’s a strength to have teachers who are from many different parts of the country and many different backgrounds. Do you try to obtain a balance locally between the various ethnic groups in the Ft. Lauderdale area?

Sara Rogers:
We now have programs in five high schools located strategically in all geographic areas of the district. Our population reflects the diversity of the student population in the district. Broward continues to recruit nationwide and from some foreign countries since we hire more than 2000 teachers per year. This program is meant to support the District’s recruiting efforts and lessen somewhat our shortage. At maturity when all five schools have a senior class we will be graduating only 150 per year.

Question from Dr. Margaret Arbuckle, Executive Director, Guilford Education Alliance, Guilford County, North Carolina:
What is the relationship needed with local universities/colleges to make this program viable?

Sara Rogers:
We have very strong relationships with our partner institutions of higher education--all members of the Broward Educational Consortium. The Presidents have signed agreements to match the Fellowship scholarships raised by Dr. Parks. The Presidents meet quarterly with the Broward Schools Superintendent to further education issues in our county. Their support has been critical. In addition the colleges host field trips, class visitations, financial aid counseling, tutor for both regular classes and entrance exams and counseling for curriculum decisions.

Question from Brian M. Gwyn, Senior Learning Consultant, InfoSource:
What role, if any, is online learning playing in UTAP?

Sara Rogers:
The senior class from one of our high schools participates in the Intro to Ed class offered at another of our high schools via online learning. Our seniors communicate regularly and submit response papers and other assignments online as well. Part of the 4 year curriculum is learning various teacher technology applications.

Question from Cathy Greene, Director of Elementary Education, McLean County Unit District No. 5:
Sara, Could you provide some details about the financial support that your “homegrown” teacher candidates receive? Is the support provided by the state? Is it a grant program? How many teacher candidates a year receive financial support? Thank you.

Sara Rogers:
Dr. Bob Parks, a member of the Broward County School Board established a fund (The Broward Teacher Fellowship)with left-over campaign money after running unopposed. Dr. Parks is continually fund raising and is instrumental in our developing relationships with civic and business organizations that contribute to the Fellowship. The Broward Teacher Fellowship Scholarships are funded through Florida PrePaid College Plan. The Fellowship purchases one 2x2 prepaid college plan (2 years of community college and 2 years of university), the state matches it, then the local universities match the 2. In addition, each high school graduate from our program must exhaust all avenues of financial aid through federal and state programs. We guarantee the students a debt-free college education. Whatever unmet needs these students have will be provided through the Fellowship.

Question from Lori Howard, State Liaison for Teacher Recruitment, NJ Department of Education:
What were the biggest obstacles you faced when developing the program?

Sara Rogers:
Convincing the first couple of groups of students and their parents that teaching was an honorable and worthwhile profession--not just a fallback job. Once we engaged the first two groups of students they became the sellers. Of course a program is only as good as the individuals teaching and selecting that faculty strategically is of upmost importance.

Given the serious shortage of foreign language teachers, particularly those qualified to teach elementary level youngsters, does the program emphasize foreign language teacher recruitment?

Sara Rogers:
We look for the strengths and interests of our students and encourage them to pursue those fields within education.

Question from Sally Mays, Parent:
I have a daughter who will a college freshman this year in elementary education in Minnesota. She will be a brilliant teacher. It is all she wants to do. Yet We were absolutely amazed that there is NO program like UTAP in Minnesota. Not even for children of educators--I’m a school library/Media Specialist.

Are other states joining the band wagon? Can she transfer to Florida?

Sara Rogers:
Unfortunately, no. UTAP is strictly for high school students.

Question from Lori Howard, State Liaison for Teacher Recruitment, NJ Department of Education:
How open were administrators in your county to this program? Did you have a lot of convincing to do?

Sara Rogers:
No, there’s a constant search for quality teachers.

Question from
What has contributed to Broward County’s staggering teacher shortages?

Sara Rogers:
Growth (approxiamtely 10,000 students per year) A large number of retirements Florida Legislature’s Class Size Ammendment

Comment from Debbie McLean, Vice President Communications, Recruiting New Teachers, Inc.:
Hi Sara,

We’re so glad that you are hosting this chat online. It’s an important area--one that holds great promise.

We are wondering if people are aware of a guide RNT published in 2002 entitled “A Guide to Developing High School Teaching Academies.” The guide is designed to help develop an effective teacher academy and has both tools and best practices for laying the groundwork, establishing college partnerships, devising a program framework, and committing institutional resources. The guide was funded through a grant from the US Department of Education and is availalbe through our office. The guide includes program contacts at teacher academies nationwide.

If readers are interested, they should contact Anne Simmons at RNT or at (617) 489-6000.

Thanks again for hosting the chat.


Question from Jasmine brenneman, teacher, capostrano unified School District:
How do you deal with issues of raising the extra finances you may need?

Sara Rogers:
Dr. Parks raises the capital and we run the program out of normal school operating expenses. We’ve applied for several grants to support student field trips and incentives. A school board vendor provided funds for our graduation celebration.

Question from Christopher Paolini, Special Education Teacher, New York City:
I came into teaching via the New York City Teaching Fellows, which takes business professionals and trains them to be teachers in high need areas in New York City through an alternative certification process. Does your program provide a shortcut to certification or does it merely point students into the direction of teaching as a career?

Sara Rogers:
Alternate Certification is a completely seperate issue and is handled through our Human Resource and Development Dept.

Question from Janice AlSDE:
How would you advise other States who wish to get involved in this program to go about it?

Sara Rogers:
The most important aspect of development is establishing strong relationships with local higher ed institutions. (particularly, the support of the president of each) Also crucial is school board and superintendent support. In additon, we have received crucial support from the Council of Great Cities Schools and Recruiting New Teachers, Inc.

Question from Sandra Hansen, Assitant Principal, Henry County Schools:
It is the retention of good teachers that surrounds my concerns. Does your program include a process for continuous development and improvement for teachers? Are there opportunities to develop teachers as leaders-not administrators but teacher leaders?

Sara Rogers:
We have ancillary programs that provide coaching, mentoring and classroom support throughout a minimum of the first three years of teaching.

Question from Nancy Flickinger, Teacher for Teaching Profession Academy, Colerain High School, Cincinnati Ohio:
Do you offer any kind of college credit for your course? We have worked in Ohio to help the students gain credit for their coursework while in high school.

Also, is your program exclusive for a certain grade level?

Sara Rogers:
It is a four credit program resulting in 3 college credits in Intro to Ed. We are now working on developing a second dual enrollment course in Technology in Education.

Question from Flip Jones, 8th Grade Science Teacher, Whitlock Junior High School:
What kind of effort would it take to take better care of new teachers and the ones we have so the turnover wouldn’t be as great and we wouldn’t HAVE TO HAVE as many alternately-certified teachers (I’m alternately certified as well)?

Sara Rogers:
We believe it takes strong support from excellent teacher leaders particularly in the first two years. Classroom management is the over-arching concern of both new teachers and school administrators. An organized system to address these issues is neccessary.

Question from Dottie O’Brien, Dir of Program Training, Teach For America:
In comparison to other teachers, are home-grown teachers more effective, less effective, or as effective as regular teachers?

Sara Rogers:
All of their field experiences are intensive and are within the kind of schools they’ll be placed. We believe the experiences we provide them better prepare them for classroom stiuations than teachers without. Grand Valley State University’s Dept. of Ed has some research based on their own students that validates this.

Question from Regis Rothrauff, Assistant Director, School Readiness Group:
Does the curriculum address “urban specific” teaching tactics?

Sara Rogers:
Absolutely. All our clincal experiences are within the urban corridor of Broward County. Exemplary teachers help our students develop lessons and provide feedback in order to be successful in the urban classroom.

Question from Regis Rothrauff, Assistant Director, School Readiness Group:
How does UTAP student participation culturally and behaviorally impact the general student population? Are there ancillary benefits?

Sara Rogers:
Our students offer testimony that they are better students for recognizing good teaching and appreciation for teacher efforts. In addition, the elementary schools where they do their clinical experiences say that the elementary students perform and behave better when working with the UTAP students.

Question from Erica Tromblay, Allyn & Bacon:
What types of books and materials are you using in your curriculum?

Sara Rogers:
We use the Intro to Ed text, Becoming a Teacher, 6th edition. Periodicals such as Ed Week, Teacher Magazine, Phi Delta Kappa, etc. Current education literature

Question from Gordon Worley, Senior Training Specialist, Univ. of South Florida:
UTAP sounds like it is a viable program to encourage students to become teachers. How feasible would it be to take this program state wide, since Florida is facing a huge teacher shortage? Has it been discussed at the state level?

Sara Rogers:
As of now, it’s a homemade, homegrown program. We’d encourage any interest.

Question from Erica Tromblay, Pearson Allyn &Bacon Publishers:
Ms. Rogers, are there any books currently published that fit well into this curriculum? Are you currently using a college-level foundations of education book? Would it be helpful to have an intro book written at a high school level?

Sara Rogers:
please see previous text answer. We believe that our students are capable of using the college text. (particulary because they earn college credit)

Question from Dr. Phyllis Rumpp, Coordinator of Science Education, Cabrini College:
How do you change the mind set of urban teachers that they will be able to make a difference with their students? Teachers I am working with in teaching them to teach science are discouraged, burned-out, and have no belief or trust with their administration. We are trying to change that...but as the teachers say, “We have heard it all before!”

Sara Rogers:
Our students see potential. Over the course of the school year, our students witness the substantial academic gains made by the students they work with. We have not experienced negativity among our students.

Question from :
Does our “system” keep creative teachers out of the profession?

Sara Rogers:
We can’t answer for the system. However, we look for creative students.

Question from Christopher Paolini, Special Education Teacher, New York City:
Are you concerned that preparing high school students to be teachers might limit the breadth of their experiences? Or may cause them to be less well-rounded at an age where they should be encouraged to try a lot of different things before settling on a career?

Sara Rogers:
UTAP is an elective curriculum. The high school students are still exposed to many other interests. This is no different than high school magnet programs for professions such as medicine and law.

Question from Pam McIntyre, Executive Director, Salina Education Foundation:
Our public school foundation is developing a grow-your-own teacher-program and would like your input on if and how it is possible (legal) to guarantee recipient a job within the school system.

Sara Rogers:
In our system, since we have so many openings, our spuerintendent has gauranteed jobs for our SUCCESSFUL and QUALIFIED graduates.

Question from Steven McGee, Loyola University Chicago:
How are you evaluating the program?

Sara Rogers:
By participation, grades, test scores and retention.

Question from Rolland Janairo, Manager, Pearson Teacher Fellowship, Jumpstart for Young Children:
Can you please tell us more about the mentoring program? How often do they meet with their mentors? How is the relationship structured (observation and feedback sessions, distance mentoring, etc.)?

Sara Rogers:
As mentioned earlier we have monthly meetings and structured trainings. In addition, skilled staff regularly model for students and mentors.

Question from Donna Weeks, Assoc. Supt. Human Resources, Cumberland County Schools, Fayetteville, NC:
Could you elaborate on the increase in student interest and growth of cohort numbers, during the five years of the UTAP program, as well as your marketing techniques for students?

Sara Rogers:
We received support through a federal magnet grant which allowed us to expand to additional sites. Recruitment fairs, word of mouth, strong relationships with middle school guidance depts. and education clubs.

Question from Kathy Farrell,Teacher, Roselle School System:
I believe that until the teaching profession is looked upon with respect, there will be ongoing difficulties in attracting dedicated individuals into the profession of teaching. I have been in the teaching field now, for 35 years, and each year I see the level of respect by everyone toward teachers lessen. However, there are more demands placed upon us with each new school year.What do you suggest be done to improve the present lack of respect for teachers?

Sara Rogers:
We can only inspire those within our reach. My personal philosophy is that teachers have to see themselves as professionals, work hard to positively mentor younger teachers and see their profession as sacred.

Scott Cech (Teacher Magazine) (Moderator):
Thanks for all the great questions, and thanks to Ms. Rogers for joining us. We’re out of time, so we’ll have to leave the discussion there. Read the chat transcript:

For more information about UTAP, link here:

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