Although my office is on the campus of Providence College, the program I help lead is having an impact on classrooms throughout New England. I work with a unique teacher education program that invites recent college graduates to contribute two years of service as teachers in Catholic schools in New England, while earning their Master's degrees.
It's not easy being a teacher today, and research shows that the first two years of experience can mean the difference between retaining teachers in the field—or losing them to other lines of work. Our goal at PACT, which launched at Providence College in 2001, is to help stop that loss of high-quality, early career teachers, especially in Catholic schools.
While PACT participants earn their Master's degrees to become educators, they teach full-time in classrooms where they experience hands-on learning. Because being a new teacher and working with students has a number of challenges, our program provides an accessible network of people and resources to which students can turn for mentoring, information, and other support they need to be successful. I am fortunate to be one of these supports by teaching courses, visiting our teachers regularly in their schools to observe and give feedback, and partnering with their schools to help them support PACT teachers on site.
PACT program participants teach classes in language arts, literature, history, biology, chemistry, physics, math, Spanish, religious studies, and other subjects at the middle and high school levels, as well as in elementary classrooms. The program is affiliated with several other U.S. Catholic colleges and universities as a member of the University Consortium for Catholic Education (UCCE).
We, as a program, do face challenges with funding. We receive the equivalent of a starting teacher's salary from the schools where we place PACT teachers, who in turn receive a stipend and low-cost housing through the program, as well as a Master’s degree from Providence College at no cost to them. We are forced to operate efficiently and effectively. But the program is working – our teachers have a high retention rate in education, and many of our participants stay on at the schools where they taught during PACT or at other Catholic schools.
It is a true privilege to work with such committed young people, as well as our partner schools and Providence College, to help our PACT teachers develop as professional educators to serve the children in our schools. As an employee of Providence College, and through them being able to receive retirement benefits and advice from TIAA, I am able to follow my call to prepare the next generation of teachers knowing that I have support, too.