Angela Dueber wanted to be a school teacher.
But the graduate of Rampart High School and the Colorado State University business school was working in the marketing field and wasn't sure how to make the change.
Then she heard about the unique program in Denver Public Schools called the Denver Teacher Residency program, which would immediately put her in the classroom for a year with a mentor teacher, give her time to work on her master's degree at Denver University and pay for the graduate tuition if she teaches four years in the district beyond the training year.
At the end of15 months, she had her teaching license and a master's degree.
She is in her second year as a second-grade teacher at Smith Renaissance School in DPS. Like others in the program, she teaches in a Title 1 schoolwhere there are high numbers of impoverished and non-English speaking students.
"It is fantastic. You get the support and the tools," said Dueber, 27. "It was a lot of hard work teaching and getting my master's at night and weekends. But it has been worth it. I love teaching. I can see how I make a difference, how my students grow as learners and individuals."
Besides the residency program, DPS has a separate program called Denver Teach Today, an intensive five-week summer teacher training program. Those enrolled include teachers and other professionals who spend a half day teaching and the other time in professional development at the district. They also work in the English Language Acquisition (ELA) Academy, which is training on how to teach non-English speaking students.
At the end of Teach Today training, teachers do not have an advanced degree, but go right into the classroom as "teachers of record," which means they are licensed to teach the subjects and grade level for which they trained.
Once in the classroom, they are assigned a teaching coach, and get ongoing support for the first year.
The two programs are ideal for professionals looking for a mid-career change to teaching, said Shannon Hagerman, DPS director of Teacher Preparation Pathway. And in turn, fills its needs. The district, one of the fastest growing in the nation, has 4,500 teachers. There is turnover, and it usually hires 500 or more each year.
At present, there are 130 residency graduates working in classrooms.
"Teacher effectiveness data demonstrates that novice teachers prepared through the residency program outperform those from other pathways," Hagerman said.
"It helps us find high quality candidates. And because they have spent a year working in the district before they become teachers, they have a better understanding of policies and procedures."
She explains, "They make ideal teachers because they bring an alternative perspective to the classroom. Students benefit beyond anything we can measure on a test."
But the application process is rigorous. The residency program teachers study at Denver University, which provides pertinent classes.
The program trains teachers for elementary education (including how to teacher kids whose first language isn't English); special education (K-12); and secondary education (6-12) in math or science.
Those in the Denver Teacher Residency Program must pay the Denver University tuition up front, which is about $28,000. (They do not, however apply to DU. That is taken care of through the DPS program).
Most apply for student loans, and once they complete their fifth year, the tuition is reimbursed During the training year, they receive a $10,000 stipend paid in monthly increments, said Jennifer Miller, a program spokeswoman.
"Tuition is a lot of money up front, but there is financial aid and then if they stay the five years, it is reimbursed. It's a good deal," Miller said.
On the other hand, the Denver Teach Today program costs $2,500 to enroll. Once enrollees complete the training, they receive a $1,500 stipend for that work, and then make their applications to DPS.
The deadline for residency program is Feb. 15. The Denver Teach Today program deadline is March 7.
Applications takes considerable time to complete, so those interested should start the process early, Miller said.