ODU's Teacher Immersion Residency Program Receives Rave Reviews

"I have had the privilege of working with several Norfolk Public Schools teachers who participated in the Teacher Immersion Residency (TIR) program at Old Dominion University. As the Advanced Placement (AP) Instructional Specialist for the division, I routinely work with former TIR teachers who are now teaching AP courses. The teachers who have emerged from the ODU program all share several characteristics that make them outstanding teachers. They possess a work ethic and a level of content knowledge not common among many beginning teachers. The attitude they exhibit is far superior and they all demonstrate a long-term commitment to the teaching field and to their students. As AP teachers, they have a track record of enjoying immediate success in helping their students earn qualifying scores, which is rare among beginning AP teachers. From my perspective, they are several years ahead of beginning teachers in their development in becoming master teachers. The TIR teachers are a tremendous asset to the division and I would hope that the program would continue at Old Dominion University.

"The Teacher Immersion Residency program at Old Dominion University has done a tremendous job in the critical role of preparing quality teachers for the education field. They are wonderful teachers and I look forward to watching their growth as they continue in their careers." - Bruce Brandy, AP Instructional Specialist

This is one of many testimonials from Hampton Roads area schools about the Old Dominion University Teacher Immersion Residency Program.

The program began in 2009 with a five-year, $6 million Teacher Quality Partnership grant from the Department of Education. The apprenticeship-based program of study is designed for individuals with a deep commitment to teaching in high-need schools. ODU's grant was one of only 28 awarded nationwide. The only other TIR program in the state is based at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The highly selective master's program in secondary education leads to licensure in math, English, social studies, earth science, biology, chemistry or physics. It features an intensive 12-month graduate-level training program.

TIR program residents complete 42 semester hours of graduate study, which includes 18 hours of coursework in English, math, science or social studies, nine hours in a middle school- or high school-based residency, and 15 hours of professional education courses. They are assigned a trained teacher mentor in the public school as well as a university mentor for expert support during their training. A final element of the program is a summer internship designed to give the students discipline-specific and real-world experiences.

To date, ODU-TIR has graduated three classes whose 27 alumni are all teaching in the Norfolk and Portsmouth public schools. "Our 100 percent retention rate of graduates is unheard of in this field," says TIR Coordinator Dr. Megan Britt. "They are all fulfilling their three-year service commitment."

Program supports include a $25,000 stipend, paid tuition, and a laptop computer with wireless card. "We take the best of the best in terms of applicants," says Britt. "Enrollment is competitive because our expectations are high." TIR takes talented, non-education majors, gives them on-the-job training, and in 12 months, graduates them with a MSEd and a VA teaching license.

"Our program is unique not only because of its supports," adds Britt, "but also for how we enroll students. We bring in principals from local schools and human resource directors to interview our applicants," says Britt. "Those selected get paired with master teachers in the local schools. They learn to be a great teacher by working alongside an accomplished veteran teacher. It’s a yearlong apprenticeship model. And it works."

It's working for people like Sgt. Timothy Jones, ODU-TIR '13.

"I am starting to learn more about the behind the scenes of the teaching world," says Jones, a social studies teacher at Norview High School. "It looks much like any other industry I have worked in the past because 'change' is always at the forefront of everyone’s mind. In my case, change is referring to the way teachers are assessed. I am getting first-hand knowledge of what will be expected of teachers in the future."

"Sgt. Jones is an ideal fit for our program,' says Britt. 'We have our eye out for exceptional individuals who are ready to serve in Norfolk and Portsmouth schools. Sgt. Jones brings his real world experience to his classroom and helps students understand the decisions they make today influence their tomorrows."

"Being a soldier and being a teacher isn’t so different," explains Jones. "As a sergeant, my job is to develop soldiers and give them the skills they need to bring them to the next level. Teaching is just like that. For students, their next level may be college or employment – but always to be a good citizen."

"The added experience in the classroom gives TIRs a tremendous advantage over other first year teachers. I loved working with a cohort of dedicated teachers, sharing information and helping each other develop into better professionals. Compared to the traditional 6-week student teaching experience, the TIR program is light years ahead," said Evan Benedict, ODU-TIR '11, who teaches at I.C. Norcom in Portsmouth. "Not only would I recommend the TIR program to interested teachers, I would much rather have my own children taught by someone who had been trained in TIR."

The ODU TIR program is currently in the process of re-applying for funding with the Department of Education to keep the program going.

For further information, call TIR Program Coordinator Dr. Britt at 757-683-4060, e-mail, or visit the TIR web site: