Teach Tomorrow Oakland’s teachers of the year are (L to R): Josette Neal-DeStanton, Elmhurst Middle School; Virak Saroeun, Howard Elementary; Sabrina Moore, currently at Madison Middle; Precious James, a teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary; and Michael Williams, who works at Sankofa Academy. Photo by Ken A. Esptein.
By Ken A. Epstein
Teach Tomorrow Oakland (TTO) this week celebrated it fifth year of preparing homegrown teachers for Oakland schools.
TTO, which began in 2009, has a federal grant that allows it to pick excellent candidates and supports them to become Oakland teachers. The organization helps them pass teacher exams and overcome other hurdles they face on the path to becoming fully credentialed and provides training and other support for the new teachers in the classroom.
TTO honored its teachers at an event Monday evening and gave awards to its star teachers of the year: Precious James (2010 awardee), a teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary; Sabrina Moore (2011 awardee), currently at Madison Middle; Michael Williams (2012 awardee), who works at Sankofa Academy, Virak Saroeun (2013 awardee), Howard Elementary; and Josette Neal-DeStanton (2013 awardee), Elmhurst Middle.
“These are teachers who have been recognized from among all of our hard working and excellent teachers, based of recommendations of principals and our classroom evaluation team,” said Dr. Rachelle Rogers-Ard, manager of TTO.
“We are currently in our fifth group, who will be placed in classroom in the fall. We´ve accepted 68 people, but we anticipate we will be able to place about half of them, because of the barriers that new teachers face.”
“But we will continue working with the other 30. We hope to be able to place them in classrooms later in the school year or the following year.”
Seventy-Six percent of TTO’s new recruits stay in teaching, compared with a 30 to 40 percent retention rate nationally, almost double the national average, she said.
“What makes Teach Tomorrow different is that we have a community atmosphere.” said Rogers-Ard.
TTO seeks recruits who represent the diversity of the community of Oakland,” she said. “We are looking for teachers who can work in our community.”
TTO is a project created by the Oakland Unified School District and the office of former Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums. Funded by the Transition to Teaching federal grant program, TTO is a not a substitute for a university-based teaching credential program. Those who want to teach still must earn a credential.
What TTO does is help those who want to teach find a position as an intern teacher and provide those who need tutors with help to pass the CBEST and CSET exams.
In exchange for the support and training, Rogers-Ard said, “We’re asking for a five year commitment, more than any other internship in the country, because Oakland students deserve teachers who are not passing through, who are willing to stay long enough to become excellent teachers.”