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University, SAD1 sign Professional Development School agreement

Officials with the University of Maine at Presque Isle and Maine School Administrative District #1 have signed an agreement that will allow UMPI Education students to take part in extensive internships at Pine Street Elementary School and Presque Isle High School while providing professional development opportunities for veteran teachers there.

President Don Zillman and Dr. Gehrig Johnson, MSAD#1 Superintendent, signed the memorandum of understanding during a March 2 press conference at Pine Street school. The agreement establishes a Professional Development School partnership between the two educational entities and sets forth five main goals: to increase PK-12 student achievement, improve teacher preparation, enhance professional development opportunities for UMPI and MSAD#1 faculty and staff, more effectively transition students from grade 12 to college, and enhance Advanced Placement opportunities for high school students.

Under the partnership, selected students in UMPI’s Education Program will have the opportunity to take part in a two-semester teaching internship. The first semester experience would include the first five days of school and one day a week for the rest of the semester, all in the same classroom, while the second semester would be a full immersion into that same classroom for 15 weeks.

Another important component of the partnership includes on-site courses at MSAD#1 partner schools taught by UMPI full-time and adjunct faculty that would be open to UMPI’s teacher certification students and MSAD#1 teachers seeking recertification or meeting other needs.

“We are extremely excited about the hands-on opportunities and in-depth exposure to the realities of the teaching profession that this is going to provide to our teacher certification students, as well as the continuing education aspect it will provide for professional teachers in the area,” President Don Zillman said. “This partnership allows us to accomplish two goals that are at the heart of what we strive to do as a University – offer the best possible educational experiences for our students and serve the needs of our community.”

Work on the agreement began after members of the University’s College of Education contacted local schools seeking interest in forming educational partnerships. MSAD#1 officials were among the first to show interest in establishing a partnership. Faculty from both schools met and what emerged was a strong interest in forming a Professional Development School.

“Professional Development is a key to successful teaching,” Superintendent Gehrig Johnson said. “This partnership with UMPI will raise the bar of opportunity for SAD#1 teachers to increase achievement for over two thousand students in the five communities that comprise SAD#1. I believe this Partnership has a great chance for success.”

The Professional Development School is expected to provide many immediate benefits. Students will become members of the school community as part of their training for the profession and have the benefit of working with a veteran teacher who can guide, reinforce, and model effective classroom instruction. MSAD#1 teachers and the school district will get to co-create with UMPI faculty an educational experience for teacher candidates that will better prepare the students for a career in education as well as use the partnership as an opportunity to recruit new teachers well prepared to enter the profession.

The Professional Development School agreement will be implemented in the Fall of 2009, placing teacher certification students from UMPI in Presque Isle High School and Pine Street Elementary School classrooms. Principals Eric Waddell and Loretta Clark will serve as site coordinators on this partnership; Dr. Barbara Chalou, Professor of Education, will serve as the site coordinator at UMPI.

“I’m excited to be part of this innovative project, at the heart of which is student achievement,” Chalou said. “This Professional Development School agreement really separates UMPI from every other Teacher Education Preparation program in Maine.”

This is the second Professional Development School partnership the University has established in Aroostook County. Last summer, UMPI officials signed a similar agreement with the Caribou School Department. University officials hope to establish similar partnerships with other area schools in the future.