Teach Western Mass Awarded $950,000 to Expand Teacher Retention

SPRINGFIELD — Teach Western Mass (TWM) has won a $950,000, two-year grant from the Barr Foundation. This generous award will enable TWM to implement a new strategic vision and focus on strengthening and diversifying the local education workforce by licensing, supporting, and retaining powerful teachers reflective of their students’ life experiences and identities. Launched in 2016, Teach Western Mass is a nonprofit organization running a post-baccalaureate residency licensure program, approved by the state.

“We have thoughtfully spent the last six months redesigning our organization and our programming to better meet the needs of the 850+ teachers working in Western Mass. classrooms whose emergency licenses are set to expire this year,” said Pema Latshang, founding executive director of Teach Western Mass. “Now is the time to invest in the teachers who want to stay and are making a positive impact on our students using a culturally responsive approach.

“To do that, we need to create and implement pathways like the Teach Western Mass residency for our educators to move from emergency to more permanent licensure,” she went on. “If we don’t, we risk losing these teachers. Change can be expensive, and we are so appreciative of the Barr Foundation’s trust and support in our vision and leadership on this important issue at this pivotal time.”

This month, Teach Western Mass welcomed its first cohort of emergency licensed teachers to the newly redesigned residency program. Over the next 18 months, residents will earn their initial license in either English learner education or moderate disabilities ­– special education. Residents currently teach in Holyoke Public Schools, the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership, or Libertas Academy Charter School. They were selected by both TWM and their school leaders.

“The Barr Foundation is excited to continue to learn alongside Teach Western Mass as they work with partner schools to support, develop, and license diverse early-career educators ready to equip students to lead the life they dream,” said John Travis, senior program officer at the Barr Foundation.