Five questions for Jennifer Green
Jennifer Green is the CEO and co-founder of Urban Teachers, a residency program for teacher preparation. Founded in 2009, Urban Teachers is committed to solving a critical challenge in urban education: new teacher quality. This year, Urban Teachers’ new and aspiring teachers will teach more than 15,000 students across 93 public schools in Baltimore City and Washington, DC.
What was your first role working in education?
I began my career in urban education as a high school English and French teacher in greater New Orleans. As is typical of a first-year teaching assignment, I was given all ninth grade, mostly below-level readers, in a seven-period day. This meant that I worked with 150 students each day. I’d had little formal training to become a classroom teacher, and my department chair didn’t visit my classroom until January! It was the start of my journey to prepare and support new teachers in ways that set them up for success in the classroom.
What is one pivotal moment in your career in educator preparation that left a positive impact on you or others?
Prior to launching Urban Teachers, I worked in Baltimore City’s central office, overseeing their curriculum and professional development support for middle and high schools. In that role, I invested heavily in both new curriculum and extensive training and support for new teachers. I’ll never forget a day that I visited an early career teacher. She worked in one of Baltimore City’s most challenging high schools, teaching ninth-grade students; when I visited her classroom she had run out of desks for her 40 students, so some students were at desks, others were on the radiator, or on the floor. The room was utterly silent except for the teacher working side by side with one student on a reading assessment. The rest of the class was reading independently in books that they had selected, immersed in what they were doing. This was the result of extensive training for the teacher and appropriate curriculum, in a district where many teachers believed children couldn’t or wouldn’t read.
Why did you decide to join Deans for Impact?
I’m thrilled to be part of a forward-looking, entrepreneurial group of deans who are willing to challenge the status quo in how we prepare teachers. We have so much ground to cover before we are collectively preparing teachers who are ready to teach on their first day; getting to that point will require innovative thinking and bold action. The potential of this group is enormous and I’m looking forward to working with and learning from my colleagues.
What most excites you about the opportunity to transform the field of educator preparation in the years ahead?
Too many first-year teachers have the experience that I did. When teachers enter the field unprepared, students pay the price. My 25-year career has been spent in urban education, where we see far too many first-year teachers because of the high teacher-turnover rates. The impact of these new teachers on the student achievement gap is significant. The good news is that this is a solvable problem, and the one I am most excited to address.
What is one surprising thing that everyone should know about the program you lead?
Our faculty are extraordinarily focused on providing support to our residents and new teachers – so much so that they’ll often plan with them late at night, or meet in coffee shops during the weekend. Our faculty both teach coursework and provide coaching support, so they are able to make connections between the theory and practice they’re teaching, and what is happening in the resident’s own classroom. The faculty really take a personal interest in their graduate students’ success.