A Coherent Vision for Supporting Teachers Emerging in Delaware

National headlines over the last few years echoed what education insiders have known for a while: states like Delaware need to better support its teachers, who, even post-pandemic, are increasingly overburdened and scarce.  

One persistent wrinkle among the set of challenges: our teacher workforce doesn’t reflect the diversity of our students—with just 17 percent of Delaware teachers identifying as people of color compared to 56 percent of students. And the teachers of color we do have in our classrooms aren’t usually sticking around for long. Only about 50 percent of teachers of color remain in the same school after two years. 

Why does that matter? Research affirms that a diverse teacher workforce leads to increased academic achievement for all students (especially students of color), higher enrollment in advanced courses, and greater social-emotional development.  

When it comes to teachers sticking with their schools, we know that high retention levels positively impacts school climate, teacher readiness and effectiveness and student learning, while reducing teacher shortages and hiring costs. 

So how is Delaware looking to increase the teachers of color in the pipeline and their retention in the profession? The below set of efforts are part of an overarching strategy that encompasses the Delaware Department of Education, several large districts, Rodel, and a host of partners and supporters.  


Teacher Academy. The K-12 Teacher Academy program of study is a career and technical education (CTE) program that prepares high school students for careers in elementary and secondary education. Observation opportunities in a variety of age and discipline settings, as well as special needs and non-classroom settings, provide practical experiences while enriching the learning. Students have opportunity to participate in work-based learning during their senior year in a classroom setting. Rodel helped to pilot a more culturally responsive Teacher Academy curriculum and continues working with districts and institutions of higher education on how to better align around the Teacher Academy so that students can more seamlessly move transition into teacher prep programs.  

[Read more: How do you combat a teacher shortage? One Delaware district may have an answer] 

Teacher residencies. Much like clinical residencies for medical professionals, teacher-prep students may pursue teacher residencies. Teacher candidates are placed with mentor teachers in select partner schools where they observe, learn from, and co-teach with their mentor over the entire school year. The immersive co-teaching approach provides a true-to-life teaching experience and prepares candidates to competently manage their own classrooms immediately upon graduation. Candidates are involved in all teacher-related activities throughout the year, including classroom set-up, lesson planning, and more. In recent years, Rodel helped to fund US PREP, a national technical assistance provider, who brought a “residency hub” concept to Delaware and led the design and facilitation process between Relay Graduate School of Education and the Colonial School District. 

[Read more: Staff Turnover Disappeared at New Castle Elementary. Their Secret? Teacher Residencies.] 

Teacher of Color Affinity Groups. Rodel is working to support Red Clay and Colonial school districts in the launch of teacher of color affinity groups. These affinity groups—think of them as professional support groups—will be led by current classroom teachers who will facilitate conversations with their peers to learn, share, and grow in their practice. In recognition of their leadership, these teachers will receive additional pay from their districts for the extra time spent preparing and leading these groups.  

[Read more: Q&A with Alena Warner-Chisolm] 

With the partnership of several of the state’s largest districts, institutions of higher education, and a suite of state investments—Delaware has some serious momentum behind its teacher support efforts.  

The efforts don’t end there. The state is also actively exploring an updated pay scale for teachers, and newly established Teacher Apprenticeships will provide even more avenues for aspiring educators. Innovative opportunities for career advancement, microcredentials, and leadership opportunities are all key factors, too.  

Can Leadership Opportunities Help Teacher Retention?

As most teachers will tell you, they are often asked to do more than just teach students.

Teachers often take on more roles in their schools, many times without additional compensation. This is particularly true for teachers of color, who often get asked to take on additional responsibilities, serve on committees, or be default leaders without additional compensation or recognition.

School leadership also plays an important role in the retention of teachers of color. In Delaware, teachers of color cite leadership as the most common major or moderate factor in their decision to leave their school or the classroom entirely. According to a Delaware Department of Education survey, school leadership is the largest reason teachers of color leave the profession followed by district leadership and/or policies, and teacher leadership and/or teacher involvement in decision-making.

This led us to question: What can we do to unpack and influence the impact of leadership on the retention of teachers of color in Delaware?

With that in mind, the team at Rodel worked with a dedicated group of Delaware teachers to research and publish Defining Leadership Roles and Retaining Teachers of Color, a new policy brief authored by  Chantalle Ashford, Melodie Miller, Melissa Morris, and Tameka Wingo.

Over the past year, this group of dedicated teachers reviewed existing research, talked to experts in the field, and reflected on their own lived experiences as classroom teachers. Teachers quickly recognized that too often we think of leadership in a linear way with traditional roles such as assistant principal and principal without recognizing the full range of important leadership roles that teachers often play. Through this brief, our teachers worked to uplift and identify the distributed leadership roles in our schools and ways to recognize and support the contributions of the individuals taking on those roles.

The report asks us to rethink teacher, teacher leader, and school leader roles as well as compensation. We know teacher pay has become a major issue in recent years—and we acknowledge the state’s newly formed compensation committee that is currently evaluating and engaging in discussion on this topic.

Bottom line, it’s high time to honor and respect the expertise and time teachers devote to their additional responsibilities. Delaware can do more to uplift and empower teachers who are looking for opportunities to lead without leaving their classroom.

Explore the brief here, and click here to learn more about what Rodel is doing to address these important issues.

Staff Turnover Disappeared at New Castle Elementary. Their Secret? Teacher Residencies.

In her first year as principal of New Castle Elementary School, TeRay Ross wasn’t the only newcomer.

In fact, on that first day in 2017, 12 of the 22 homeroom classes inside her cavernous school—a circa 1929 former high school nicknamed “the castle”—were helmed by teachers who were also new to the building. She later learned the school turned over another 17 teacher positions the year prior to her arrival. What was going on?

“For a number of reasons people were choosing to go other places for promotions, or just kind of general retirements,” she says today. “We have kids that have a lot of needs, and some people were determining that this was not the place for them.”

Whatever the reason—it wasn’t good. Kids, especially young ones with special needs—need a sense of comfort and consistency in their educational routine.

“A lot of what we do, especially at the elementary level, is built on relationships,” says Ross. “Kids have to believe that you care about them, that you love them, and are invested in them if we’re going to get the returns that we want.”

New staff also stretches a school’s administrative team. Teachers, like any new employees, need support in their first few weeks and months on the job. And it’s hard to support 12 new people that have different levels of needs in different areas (from learning the building layout to school policy to using the laminator). “And so even if all 12 were amazing, we were stretched to capacity trying to offer the level of support that they needed,” Ross says.

Something had to change.

The staffing challenges at New Castle Elementary were echoing national trends of turnover, burnout, and vacancies.

Ross, who had undergone postgraduate training at the Relay Graduate School of Education, began working with district leaders to take advantage of Relay’s “teacher residency” program—a kind of alternative route to becoming a full-time teacher. It differs from the traditional, undergraduate approach of a teacher preparation program (though often it is embedded within these types of programs).

From our blog:

Typically, an aspiring teacher looking to enter a residency program must apply and be accepted. Once they are accepted, a resident then works as an apprentice for one year in a classroom with an expert teacher while simultaneously engaging in coursework at an affiliated college or university. Some residents receive a stipend and a scholarship during their apprenticeship year in exchange for their commitment to teach in the same district for a few years beyond the year of apprenticeship.

Principal Ross and her team took on their first resident the following school year.

“After that one, every year after that we’ve had three or four added on. They have all but one completed the program with us and they’ve all wanted to stay at New Castle,” says Ross. “That’s great. I’m so proud to say last year when all of my other principal friends were freaking out about finding teachers, I was fully staffed at May.”

. . .

New Castle Elementary School principal TeRay Ross

Before becoming a hub for teacher residencies, New Castle and its district needed to make sure the foundation was built to last. Teachers-in-training can’t work for free, so stipends for the initial waves of residents were paid for by yearly, competitive Department of Education grants.

So beginning in the fall of 2021, Colonial School District and Relay began an intensive design process focused on creating a more sustainable residency program that would not require additional state grant dollars to run. Over the course of six months they identified their biggest areas of need, created plans for recruiting and supporting new residents, and rethought their funding and unit allocations to identify untapped dollars to cover resident stipends.

Rodel helped to fund US PREP, a national technical assistance provider, who brought the hub concept to Delaware and led the design and facilitation between Relay and Colonial.

For Ross, it’s been a happy marriage. And that’s good news for the 413 kindergarten through fifth graders at her school—many of whom come from low-income families in the surrounding neighborhoods of New Castle.

As we wrote last year: Teacher residency programs look to address a multitude of problems that exist in the teaching profession. States across the country face teacher shortages, high turnover rates, and many struggle to recruit and retrain teachers of color. This can negatively impact students.

Local districts primarily recruit from local universities – most prominently from University of Delaware, Delaware State University, and Wilmington University. Since 2010, however, enrollment in traditional teacher preparation programs has decreased, making the applicant pool smaller each year.

Meanwhile, teacher residency programs “create a vehicle to recruit teachers for high-needs fields and locations; offer candidates strong content and clinical preparation specifically for the kinds of schools in which they will teach. The approach facilitates early career mentoring that keeps teachers in the profession while providing financial incentives that will keep teachers in the districts that have invested in them.”

Some consider residency models the gold standard for teacher prep models, as they often lead to “higher retention of teachers in the field, greater demographic diversity among teachers prepared through residency programs, and the potential to increase student achievement.”

Says Ross of her current crop of residents: “Next year when they need a job, they want to be with us, this is now their school, they know how things work, they know the kids, they know the people. And so this is where they want to be. And we’re already starting to have those conversations of, ‘I don’t know what openings I’ll have next year. So let me start to think about where else you might be successful.’”

Part of why residencies work is their immersive nature. Unlike traditional student teachers, residents are also inside the classroom from the very beginning to the very end. “So they participate in all of the professional development. They get to set up classrooms, welcome kids. They get invited to all the happy hours. They go through the teacher’s entire schedule all year long. So they are building these relationships and gaining knowledge to a depth where student teachers just don’t.”

And through their ongoing coursework at Relay, residents can learn and tweak their techniques while they learn.

Teacher resident Dian Williams

“The residency is kind like having training wheels,” says Tameka Wingo, a former resident and today a resident advisor, who hosts a new resident in her classroom. “When you’re just being thrown into a classroom, you’re baptized by fire, whereas you feel more supported with the residency program. You’re more likely to try different things and then ask for help a little bit more because you have help there with you and it puts you at ease. It gives you that pathway to being able to master your craft.”

All those tiers of support and communication can lead to a better overall school culture. Kindergarten teacher Tracy McKinney, who hosts a Relay resident, has seen it firsthand.

“The teachers that are here want to be here and they work so well together,” she says. “My first year here, it was not that way. There were some people that were just burned out, didn’t care. Didn’t want to be here. But ultimately, everyone I can say that I know and interact with, they are here for the kids. And that’s a really nice thing.”

. . .

The oldest of 14 siblings, Taneia Coleman always had a knack for taking care of others. But she wasn’t sure it’s what she wanted to do for a career until she landed a job at a childcare center to help cover college tuition. “I was like, Oh my god. This is really for me,” she says.

Teacher resident Taneia Coleman

Coleman eventually found a position as a paraprofessional at nearby Carrie Downie Elementary School, where she worked for four years. When it came to figuring out a pathway toward a full-time teaching gig, she considered other alternate routes to certification, but was ultimately drawn to the paid stipend and support that teacher residents receive.

Since she isn’t the typical resident and no stranger to a kindergarten classroom, she’s instead relishing the opportunity to dig deeper into approaches like Responsive Classroom, a student-centered and evidence-based approach to teaching and discipline employed at New Castle Elementary. That—and the strong school culture.

“My first few days here, I was in culture shock because I’m like, this is too good to be true,” she says. “Everybody here is just so helpful.”

Dian Williams, a resident who shares Tameka Wingo’s classroom, knows what that support feels like.

“When it all falls, Ms. Ross and Ms. Wingo knows the program inside and out,” he says. “They know what comes with the program. They know that you have real life outside of the program, and those components play a major factor in how well you’ll do in the program and in the school.”

Williams understands he is a rarity—a Black male elementary school teacher, and he doesn’t take the duty lightly to show Black students the opportunities they have in education.

“From the first day of school when they’ve noticed me standing there and they see that I was in the classroom. Some of these boys that weren’t too studious last year, I see them, when I talk to them, they say, Oh, Mr. Will, we learned about this today in my class.”

Further reading:  

Best Way to Solve a Teacher Shortage? Better Pay and Supports Could Be Considered Under New Bill

At a Glance...

-As Delaware and the nation grapple with teacher shortages, new approaches are being considered to attract more to the profession.
-The legislature will now consider a bill that aims to ensure teacher compensation in Delaware is competitive with other states and help address the teacher shortage.
-Delaware currently ranks behind all of our neighboring states in both starting salaries and average salaries for teachers.

Introduced during Teacher Appreciation Week, Senate Bill 100 with Senate Amendment 1 looks to evaluate and review current teacher salaries in Delaware. Sponsored by Sen. Bryan Townsend and supported by a wide array of legislators, the bill proposes the establishment of the Public Education Compensation Committee to review Delaware’s educator compensation structure and its ability to compete with other regional school districts.

The bill, passed by the general assembly and sent to the Gov. John Carney for signature, requires the committee to develop a set of recommendations to establish a new compensation structure for educators. These recommendations must be presented and reviewed by the governor by fall of 2023.

While this bill does not guarantee or propose increases in educator salaries, it is the first step to opening the conversation and prioritizing improved teacher pay in the First State.

Why is This Important?

We recently examined what education can learn from business when it comes to attracting and retaining employees. A critical tool in the toolbox for businesses is to adjust salaries to meet expectations and demand. In the current economy, we see this everywhere with employees being attracted to new jobs with signing bonuses and increased wages. Teachers are no different and Delaware needs to keep up—especially with shortages in most subject areas.

Delaware currently ranks behind all of our neighboring states in both starting salaries and average salaries for teachers. We currently pay our starting teachers an average of $6,000 less than Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland and are in the position to get even further behind. By 2026, all Maryland school districts will be required to offer a minimum of $60,000 starting salary for all teachers. In average salaries, our state is $9,000 below surrounding states. This issue is not new with groups like the Redding Consortium working to elevate for several years.

[Read more: A Rodel summary of local district salary scales. Note: charter school salary scales vary and are not available publicly.]

These disparities have consequences. Data provided by DDOE showed that in 2021, 40 percent of teachers of color who are trained by Delaware teacher preparation programs leave the state for other jobs. With the changing economy, rising inflation, and other factors, the migration of qualified teachers from Delaware will get worse without action.

One solution to addressing this exodus is to pay these professionals for what they do both in and out of the classroom. The pandemic has shown in full light the impact teachers have on our learners. Not only are they ensuring students learn academic content, they are also providing emotional support, and providing parents with tools and resources to help at home. We should look at compensation not just as a way to compete with neighboring states but as a reflection of the work that teachers do every day to ensure students and families get the support they need. It is worth nothing that this addresses pre-K-12 public educators only—not the educators working with young children in community settings, who make so little many are on public assistance and most do not have benefits.

What’s Underway?

We know through our conversations with teachers that they want leadership and growth opportunities and they want to be recognized and compensated for the work that they take on.

Teacher of Color Affinity Groups

As we announced this spring, Rodel is working to support Red Clay and Colonial school districts in the launch of teacher of color affinity groups. These affinity groups—think of them as professional support groups—will be led by current classroom teachers who will facilitate conversations with their peers to learn, share, and grow in their practice. In recognition of their leadership, these teachers will receive additional pay from their districts for the extra time spent preparing and leading these groups.

Rodel Teacher Network and Working Group on Teacher Diversity

Rodel relaunched the Rodel Teacher Network (RTN) last fall. The RTN serves as a forum for teachers to learn about, engage with, and weigh in on key issues in education and leverage their voices for the benefit of their students and the education profession.

As part of this network, we have convened (and compensated) a small working group of educators to collaborate on the critical issue of diversifying the teaching profession in Delaware. This group has identified a few priority areas of work including building leadership capacity and pipelines for teachers of color and diving deeper into culturally responsive leadership in schools. An outgrowth of these conversations is the recognition that teachers are taking on numerous leadership roles within their schools that are not traditionally seen as school leadership. They will continue to build out this work and look forward to contributing to the conversation around compensation reform for educators in Delaware.

Small But Mighty PD Opportunities

The Delaware Department of Education has started to offer educators the opportunity to earn microcredentials in literacy. Microcredentials are a form of competency-based professional learning that gives teachers more choice over their professional development based on their individual needs and the needs of their classrooms. Not only do they recognize and provide personalized professional learning, but teachers can earn stipends per successfully completed micro-credential in Delaware.

Long-time teachers of the RTN have been instrumental in advocating for improved professional development through publishing policy briefs and meeting with the state education professional standards board. The implementation of microcredentials is a testament to their work; with it, professional development for teachers takes an exciting step in a more innovative and engaging direction.