This June, nine teacher residents graduated with their Master's degree in Education and educator specialist credential through the County Office of Education's Teacher Residency Program with Alder Graduate School of Education. The program is an intensive, year-long program that helps aspiring teachers earn their credential while working in a local school. Next year, the program is expanding to include eleven prospective teachers who will be earning a Multiple Subject (TK-8) or a Single Subject Math, Science, or English/Language Arts credential.
Learn more about two recent graduates, Aylin and Kasandra, and their experiences through the program.
Aylin Villegas planned to pursue a career in nursing, soon after high school. However, once she began working for the Boys and Girls Club to support her college education, Aylin discovered her true calling to become a teacher.
"I felt like it was a path that was predetermined for me," Aylin shared, as she began working with youth through the Redwood City School District's Extended School Day program.
Aylin was born and raised in Redwood City, where there are many families who speak Spanish. As a Hispanic, Aylin intimately understands the adversity many students face. “I wanted them to have a model who shares the same background, who has the same skin color, who speaks the same languages as them. I felt it was important for them to have a teacher who could relate on a personal level.”
Aylin chose to become a special education teacher because she saw many students given individualized education plans (IEPs) because they were performing academically low. She was also influenced by her older brother, who has Down syndrome; her personal experience with her brother's unique abilities and challenges led her to develop a deep empathy for students with special needs.
Driven by her passion, Aylin actively sought opportunities within the district to pursue her teaching credential. One thing led to another until she discovered the Teacher Residency Program, offered by the County Office of Education in collaboration with Alder Graduate School of Education. Aylin was immediately drawn to the program.
"The length, location, everything about Alder made sense to me. It was just checking all the boxes," Aylin explained.
Aylin was placed in a Resource Specialist Program (RSP) at Orion Alternative School in the Redwood City School District. Throughout her time in the program, she found tremendous support and guidance from her mentor teacher and Carmen French, Director of the Teacher Residency Program. She praised their ability to provide her with a robust support system, which contributed to her positive experience. “I feel prepared, I feel comfortable, I feel supported by both of them and all the teachers at Alder too.”
At Orion, Aylin feels a sense of belonging and familiarity. Having spent an entire year with her students, she has developed deep connections with them. Aylin emphasizes that she feels like a teacher, not a student, and has gained an in-depth understanding of her students' unique needs.
Aylin appreciates the challenge and pace of the program, emphasizing the importance of self-discipline but also acknowledging its achievability. She has recommended the program to others, some of whom have joined the 2023-24 school year cohort.
“I love it. I love that I get to have this year-long experience. I’m looking forward to becoming a teacher, it’s what I’ve been working towards for the past four or five years. I feel like it’s finally happening and I feel great about it. I feel happy. It’s amazing.”
After working as a Registered Behavior Technician and an instructional assistant at San Mateo High School, Kasandra Rueda realized she wanted to have a more meaningful impact on students’ lives. “I remember as a kid, everyone encouraged me to be a teacher. I would respond, ‘No, I’m not meant for that,’ but I did have an underlying passion for helping youth and members of the community.”
Then, a vocational teacher at San Mateo High School suggested that Kasandra look into teaching. She discovered the County Office of Education’s Teacher Residency Program, offered through the Alder Graduate School of Education. After looking into the program's values and reading testimonials, she was captivated by the unique one-year curriculum and the supportive community fostered through the program.
“I thought, I might as well go for it. I’m going to apply and if I get in, I’m going to go towards this route.” Kasandra was accepted into the 2022-2023 school year cohort and began taking courses while working in the Resource Specialist Program at Nesbit Elementary School in the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District.
Reflecting on her experience with the Teacher Residency Program, Kasandra expresses her gratitude, stating, "Honestly, I think being in this program has helped me develop more as an educator, as a student, as a person in general." She cherishes the connections she has made with her cohort and highlights the supportive atmosphere during classes, where they can openly discuss their experiences and support one another.
“The work is intense, but I really enjoyed the experience. I love the length and how open and caring all the instructors are. My mentor is great and always takes the time to explain things. The coursework itself is a lot of reading, but I always feel I can reach out to professors, the director, even student services for support.”
Working with her students has been a fulfilling experience for Kasandra, as she enjoys connecting with them and fostering meaningful conversations. She takes pride in witnessing her students' growth, such as when a second grader who initially struggled to read began improving her skills.
“Working with the students has been awesome,” she said. “At first, I was intimidated, because I didn’t know how much of my feedback or ideas would be taken into consideration, but I’ve been able to make a difference. I love my students and getting to work with different personalities and learning their interests to find ways to motivate them.”
As she prepares to embark on her own teaching journey, Kasandra eagerly looks forward to decorating her classroom, connecting with her new students, and implementing all that she has learned over the past year. She also looks forward to continuing the relationships she started through the residency program.
“We will definitely keep supporting each other – we have already planned to meet regularly and do paperwork together. It’s exciting to know that even though we’re starting on this journey at different schools, we’re still connected and supportive of one another.”
June 20, 2023