OPI’s Arntzen on the teachers’ residency project and gender issues

Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen spoke to us first this week to celebrate that 21 new “resident teachers” have been placed in 12 Montana school districts for the upcoming school year.

Arntzen explained the difference between “guest teachers” and “resident teachers,” a concept she developed to address the need for quality educators in especially small community classrooms.

“What we’re looking at is removing the word ‘guest’ and having the new resident teacher be embraced by faculty and the school community for an entire year and get paid doing that as well,” he said. started Arntzen. “We have 21 because we just added another one yesterday that will be in 12 different school districts across our state.”

The residents are part of the first teacher residence demonstration project. The residency program is a one-year paid teaching experience for students in the fourth year of undergraduate studies for education majors.

Arntzen said the preference of some of these “resident teachers” is to be placed in large urban areas, but the majority will be placed in smaller schools where they can be mentored by a “master teacher.”

“We have a few that would like to be in our larger districts like Kalispell or Missoula or Helena, Billings or even Butte,” she said. “But the majority of them are in our very, very small rural schools. They will get housing there to make sure there is a master teacher to have this mentoring program for a whole year, and then also to be able to not only live in the community but live with the community.

Arntzen said the funds to pay “resident teachers” came from the ESSR (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Assistance) provided by the Office of Public Instruction.

“$1,400 for the first month is going to be given to those teachers who are these potential new ‘resident teachers.’ And then we have teacher leaders who are also going to be paid on an hourly basis as well as $3,000. And that then means that instead of the $100 or $200 that a mentor teacher might receive for having that guest teacher student, much more will be expected of that mentor teacher.

Up to $3,000 is also available for residents who are not already receiving full tuition support. The Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education also grants tuition waivers to residents who meet the requirements.

Of the 20 residents, 18 are students at Montana Western University and two are students at the University of Montana.

The closest school participating in the project is in Victor.

Part of the conversation with Arntzen also touched on issues with the US Department of Education and USDA regarding possible withholding of school nutrition funds if certain gender guidelines.

“We have a few school districts that wonder when a student’s legal name appears on this list and the child wants to be called by a different name,” she said. “The whole discussion about when the US Department of Education asked the USDA to withhold all of our funding for nutrition, and everything we do for breakfast or lunch programs and even our programs of backpacks, if there was discrimination against students who look at their gender differently from their birth certificate.

We have published articles over the past few months dealing with this issue with Arntzen and with Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen.

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