Inside QEA: An Interview with Corry Johnson, Jacksonville Teacher Residency Program Graduate

11/3/2015

The Jacksonville Teacher Residency program launched its second year of implementation in the 2015-2016 school year with 14 residents. The program, one of the initiatives being funded by the Quality Education for All Fund, is designed to train high-performing STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) majors to translate their in-depth content knowledge to the classroom. Modeled after a medical residency, JTR is a partnership between Duval County public schools and the University of North Florida. UNF provides JTR residents with the pedagogical and theoretical expertise needed to teach in some of Jacksonville’s most challenged schools, while DCPS provides clinical mentors to give residents the practical tools needed to be successful in the classroom. At the conclusion of the one-year residency program, the graduates of JTR become teachers of record in schools within the Duval Transformation Office and commit to 3 years of teaching in those schools.

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Corry Johnson is a recent graduate of the inaugural class of JTR residents. He is currently working at Raines High school as a math teacher. I had a chance to sit down with Corry and hear about his experience being a part of the first cohort of JTR residents, why he chose teaching after a lifelong career in another field, and what he hopes to bring to his classroom and his school.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of the Jacksonville Teacher Residency program for you?

The camaraderie between our cohort of teachers, mentor teachers, program directors and the professors at University of North Florida.  I feel very well supported by the people in this program and inspired by their enthusiasm and ability.

Why did you want to go in to teaching, and why in particular did you choose JTR?

The economic crash of 2008 gave me the opportunity to rethink my career more from a point of view of personal satisfaction.  I realized that I was never going to be truly happy just punching a time card and collecting checks.  I made a great many mistakes as a young adult because I was not focused and have struggled providing for my own family because of it.  I want to impart the wisdom of my experiences to young people and show them that anything is attainable through hard work and dedication.  

I also feel very strongly that the world we live in is beautiful but broken.  Society is caught in the trappings of malicious competition; that one's worth is only measured by their superiority to the people around them.  This idea substantiates the structures of elitism that protect systemic racism and misogyny, devalue compassion, and promote war.  Young people must be shown this reality and encouraged to question it, act against it, and obliterate it.  

The Jacksonville Teacher Residency came along at a perfect time in my life.  I was in my last year of my Bachelors at UNF with a minor in Education and had only minimal experience in schools.  Feeling that I was not prepared to jump into teaching full time, the JTR was the perfect opportunity to gain that valuable intern experience while furthering my education.  

How has JTR prepared you for a career in the classroom as an effective teacher?

Since the very beginning, we have been put into the communities and classrooms of the students we will be serving and have gained first-hand experiences to help us shape our pedagogical philosophies and strategies.  These experiences have been guided by expert instructors and incredible leadership and have allowed us practice in the structure, experimentation and reflection that is required for effective teaching.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about participating in JTR?

This is a job of the heart.  Analyze your beliefs and values and think deeply about your passion for helping young people in need.  This program is an extremely time and energy consuming endeavor that will test your desire and nerve.

That being said, you will be surrounded by the most amazing people who will push, drive, encourage and support you to be the best teacher you can be.

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