After spending a year as a teacher resident in Memphis, Dee Gregory is ready to teach his middle school students the importance of sticking things out and going against the odds because he has lived it.

Gregory, 26, shared his story during Tuesday’s first Memphis Teacher Residency lunch time talk at held in the basement classroom of Union Avenue Baptist Church where residents also spend time learning teaching strategies and earning a Masters in Urban Education.

“Obtaining a masters in a year while learning how to teach at the same time is very challenging,” Gregory shared with a crowd 40 people consisting of guests and MTR faculty and staff.  “There have been times I was ready to call it quits, but the emotional support has kept me here.”

MTR was created in 2008 and the first class of residents began in 2009.  The program offers the opportunity for anyone with a college degree and a minimum 3.0 grade point average to train as a teacher in an urban classroom.  Teachers receive a $12,000 stipend, a state of Tennessee Educator License and are required to complete a three-year teaching commitment within a Memphis urban school after the one-year residency.

Gregory credited MTR President David Montague for his willingness to offer encouragement.

“The first time I took the Praxis (teacher) exam, I missed it by three points,” Gregory said.  “The second time, I missed it by two.  I was getting frustrated so I wrote to David.  I wasn’t even a resident then, but he offered to help pay for a tutor so I could study for the Praxis.”

During his residency year, Gregory has taught biology at Whitehaven High School and will enter into the second year of his four-year commitment to MTR as an eighth grade science teacher at Sherwood Middle.

In its fifth year in Memphis, MTR officials say the program is making strides in achieving its mission to place highly effective teachers in schools that serve students who live in high-poverty areas.

For two consecutive years, MTR graduates had higher student achievement gains than other beginning teachers and veteran teachers, according to the 2013 Tennessee Higher Education Commission Report.

MTR relies strongly on word of mouth to recruit residents.  Residents must undergo an interview process that examines whether the candidate fits the mission and has the capacity for the program.

In contrast to Teach for America,  another teacher residency program in Memphis, MTR does not have a contract with Shelby County Schools to place teachers in the district.

“Our graduates are hired like other candidates,” said Robin Henderson, director of MTR.  “They are encouraged to apply and go through the hiring process.”

Henderson said MTR does have strong relationships with the principals of schools in the neighborhoods it serves – Orange Mound, Graham Heights, Binghampton and Mitchell Heights.

In the current school year, there are 42 MRT residents and graduates in Orange Mound schools, 34 in Graham Heights schools and 22 in Binghampton schools.

A faith-based organization, MTR is offered through a partnership with Union University, a Christian school,  in Jackson, Tenn.

Contact Tajuana Cheshier at tcheshier@chalkbeat.org and (901) 730-4013.

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