Socio-economic status, language and race too often predict student academic achievement in schools here in Seattle and across the nation.

Marisa Bier '09 is working to overturn that status quo as director of the Seattle Teacher Residency Program. The partnership between the UW College of Education, Seattle Public Schools, Alliance for Education and Seattle Education Association was established in 2012 to create a larger pipeline of diverse, highly qualified teachers serving the city's most poverty-impacted schools.

The former special education teacher chose to pursue her doctorate in curriculum and instruction with a focus on teacher education at the College of Education because of the inspirational work of the late UW professor John Goodlad and his National Network for Educational Renewal.

“I feel that both my studies and my work as a research assistant prepared me well," Bier said. "I had various opportunities to study teacher education pedagogy and policy, as well as embed my work in the contexts of schools that UW was partnering with.”

In leading the Seattle Teacher Residency, Bier is targeting the chronic problem of high teacher turnover in poverty-impacted urban schools. This turnover exacerbates achievement gaps by leaving the most underserved children with the least experienced or qualified teachers.

Seattle Teacher Residency places teacher candidates into urban schools with diverse student populations and provides support through intensive mentoring by experienced teachers. Modeled after teacher residency programs in cities such as Boston, Chicago and Denver, graduates of the program agree to teach in one of Seattle’s highest needs schools following completion of their degrees.

In addition to preparing a group of exceptional teachers for Seattle Public Schools, the program is also helping shape a teacher workforce whose diversity more closely reflects the rich diversity of the district’s student population. In just its second year of operating, the Seattle Teacher Residency is already gaining national attention. One of the program's mentor teachers and a member of its first graduating cohort have recently testified before the U.S. Congress and presented a briefing to government officials on Capitol Hill.

As a PhD student at UW College of Education, Bier had numerous opportunities to hone the skills and expertise necessary to lead the innovative residency program.

“I played an integral role in the Teachers for a New Era grant and Ackerley Partnership, which allowed me to build my skills on understanding and addressing the complexity of school/university partnerships and the theory/practice divide," she said. "These are skills that have guided me in my work as director of the Seattle Teacher Residency."

This summer, the second cohort of the Seattle Teacher Residents will graduate and move into their own classrooms at schools throughout the district. With each new cohort, Bier's goal is to break the link between poverty, race, language and academic achievement, so that every child grows up in an equitable educational system.


Dustin Wunderlich, Director for Marketing and Communications