It’s been about a year since Abbey DeJuliis earned her Bachelor of Science in Middle Level Education (Grades 6–8), and she’s currently winding up her first-year teaching seventh grade English at Stanton Middle School in Wilmington. But it’s not the first year she’s spent in front of a classroom, and according to DeJuliis — a graduate of WilmU’s Year-Long Residency student teaching program — that’s made all the difference.
“Many of the teachers at Stanton have told me that they would have never known it was my first year,” she says. “The residency was incredibly challenging in many ways, but I honestly could not have been more prepared.”
The Year-Long Residency program, pioneered at WilmU’s College of Education, has revolutionized teacher preparation. It offers bachelor’s and master’s degree students the option of co-teaching alongside a mentor teacher in select partner schools throughout Delaware for an entire school year as an alternative to the traditional 80-day student-teaching model.
Managing the responsibilities of a full-time teaching job while also completing the college coursework embedded into the residency isn’t easy. More than a few year-long student-teachers have discovered just how physically exhausting the job is. Plus, over the past two years, COVID-19 has required every teacher to adopt a whole new set of skills.
“That difficulty did breed success overall,” says DeJuliis. She’d learned the benefit of practical, hands-on experience in her previous career as a hairstylist, and the year she taught eighth-grade social studies at A.I. DuPont Middle School in Wilmington with mentor teacher Brian Elliott enabled unparalleled opportunities.
“There are things, like special education practices and progress reporting, that are not learned as a student in a classroom,” she says. “You have to be doing them as a teacher in a classroom in order to learn them. You can’t learn those things from a book.”
The Year-Long Residency helped her gain those advantages, and more. “I have my systems, I have my teaching style, and I have my discipline style already established,” says DeJuliis. “I understand the population and the expectations of me as a teacher in Red Clay Consolidated School District. I could not be more thankful for the experience.”
WilmU Assistant Professor Tyler Wells, who oversees the Year-Long Residency, sees incomparable value in the program. “The fact that Year-Long Residents are experiencing success from day one of their careers as teachers shows that the College of Education’s teacher preparation programs are preparing students well for the realities of teaching in today’s public schools,” he says. “But the key to success is the students. They deserve all the accolades.”