Department of Labor Visits Unique Apprenticeship Program at Stillwater Central School District

New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon, who was unable to attend, said in a statement, “Apprenticeship programs provide a vital educational pathway into a variety of careers. The Classroom Academy’s Apprenticeship Program gives New Yorkers the opportunity to pursue a career in education, allowing them to help our communities while getting hands-on experience and a fair wage. We are proud to have the Classroom Academy as an apprenticeship partner.”

During the visit, New York State Department of Labor Deputy Commissioner of Workforce Development Chris White presented Stillwater CSD Superintendent Patricia Morris and Classroom Academy Program Coordinator Colleen McDonald a proclamation signed by Governor Kathy Hochul celebrating the Classroom Academy as part of the first New York State Apprenticeship Month

The Classroom Academy registered as an Apprenticeship in April 2021 and this year is supporting 25 resident Apprentices in the field. Stillwater CSD, one of 8 district partners, is currently hosting two apprentices; one second year at the elementary and one first year at the high school level.  

“We are delighted that the NYS and US Department of Labor were able to see firsthand how school districts are benefiting from this unique residency and Registered Apprenticeship program, especially during a time when schools across the state are experiencing severe teacher shortages,” said Colleen McDonald, Classroom Academy program coordinator. 

According to New York State United Teachers, enrollment in New York’s teacher education programs declined by roughly 37 percent since 2009. At the same time, the state Teachers’ Retirement System projects that one-third of the state’s teachers could retire in the next five years. SUNY projects that New York will need 180,000 teachers in the next decade.

Under the first ever New York State Apprenticeship program for teacher preparation through the state Department of Labor, SUNY students receive $5,000 in SUNY tuition assistance in addition to the $22,000 per year living stipend they already receive through WSWHE BOCES. Additionally, Classroom Academy has also applied and received additional grant funding that enables all participants to access tuition and materials support. 

Launched in 2017, Classroom Academy offers teacher preparation candidates a paid two-year residency placement with local school districts to provide on-the-job experience under the guidance of an expert lead teacher. Unlike traditional student-teacher placements, typically consisting of two 7 or 8 week placements in classrooms, Classroom Academy provides two full academic years of hands-on training to better prepare candidates, as they enter the workforce, for the complexities of teaching in their own classrooms. With the cost of completing a graduate program and forgoing an extra year in the workforce prohibitive for some students, the stipend provided through the academy and tuition assistance accessed through the Registered Apprenticeship are designed to remove barriers and help candidates afford being able to complete their studies and attain initial state teacher certification.

“We have seen an increase in interest with the reduction of barriers.” said McDonald.  “Given the support we can provide, individuals are able to reassess their goals and change careers to pursue their dream of teaching.”

Classroom Academy currently partners with three higher education partners (SUNY Plattsburgh at Queensbury, SUNY Empire and Sage Colleges) to place students across the region.