Educational reformer speaks at Northwestern about improving teacher training


Annabel Edwards/Daily senior staffer

Jennifer Green, co-founder of the Urban Teacher Center, gives a talk about education reform at Annenberg Hall on Wednesday night. The center is an alternative teacher preparation program.

Preston R. Michelson, Reporter

The co-founder of the Urban Teacher Center came to Northwestern on Wednesday to speak about her career and the state of education in the United States.

Jennifer Green, who once worked as a teacher through Teach for America, spoke at Annenberg Hall in an event organized by the NU chapter of the Students For Educational Reform.

Before she started the Washington, D.C.-based UTC, a hands-on education training program, Green was the director of curriculum and instruction for Baltimore’s public high schools.

Green, who studied communications at Boston University, said her journalistic background helped her significantly in talking to other professionals about how they evaluate their companies.

“I was so interested in learning from different industries,” she said. “Education is this insular little bubble … so it was helpful checking in with other industries and learning how to think about codifying practice.”

She said she had an epiphany when speaking with a manager of three different McDonald’s franchises.

“I asked him, ‘How do you guys get the fries to taste like that every single time?’ she said. “And the training that the fry guy gets at McDonald’s is unbelievable. It’s weeks of training before he ever makes fries on his own. And then the manager stops in weekly for impromptu check-ins. When I taught, somebody came to my classroom twice in three years.

“I said to the manager, ‘Why do you think it’s so different?’” Green said. “He responded,’Because in my business, results matter.’”

So she started UTC, which includes a clinically-based preparation program. It involves hands-on training that prepares teachers for facing their first class.

“We’re trying to simulate what the first day of teaching is like as many times as we can for people,” she said. “So, by the time you get your kids … you know how you want your classroom organized, you know entry routines, you know how to plan and you know what your first week is going to look like.”

According to its website, UTC is a nonprofit organization that “recruits outstanding applicants, equips them with state-of-the-art training, and links their certification to their students’ performance outcomes.”

The program uses “bug-in-the-ear training” because it realized coaching during teaching proved more effective than after-the-fact instruction. Starting in the second year, the organization pre- and post-tests the students of the teachers in training.

Teachers are prepared through a residency model and a dual Master’s of Education program. 

Green said UTC is planning to expand to Chicago for the 2015-2016 academic year.

SESP senior Michelle Giuffre, a co-chapter leader for SFER, described their group as representing students who want to change the current state of education.

The other co-chapter leader, Communication senior Bethany Tuten, said she thought Green delivered a “different type of speech.”

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