Celebrating 20 Years of the Baltimore City Teaching Residency

In January 2002, Baltimore City Public Schools contracted with TNTP to design and implement the Baltimore City Teaching Residency (BCTR). BCTR is an alternative teacher preparation program that provides a faster, more affordable path to teacher certification through job-embedded training and personalized coaching. The residency begins with pre-service training in the summer, where residents learn core teaching skills from experienced coaches and teachers, like managing a classroom, engaging students, and delivering instruction. Residents secure a teaching position in Baltimore City Public Schools in the fall, and continue building skills through coursework that culminates in teacher certification. The program is rooted in the Baltimore community, and is focused on preparing aspiring teachers to meet the specific needs of Baltimore’s students.

Over the years, BCTR has prepared more than 2,500 teacher residents and reached more than 380,000 students. A key part of the program’s success has been our intentional efforts to diversify the teacher workforce to better reflect the diversity of the student population in BCPS. Since 2019, BCTR (along with four other TNTP Teaching Fellows programs) has partnered with a national foundation to create the Black Educator Excellence Cohort, which helps boost the recruitment and retention of talented Black teachers by offering financial assistance and a suite of support during teachers’ first years in the classroom.

The first group of residents stepped into Baltimore classrooms 20 years ago this fall. We spoke with three former residents to hear their reflections on this important milestone in BCTR’s history:

Baba Olumiji (BCTR ’06), Principal at Johnston Square Elementary

Ashley Lawrence (BCTR ’15), Teacher, First Grade at Johnston Square Elementary

Shanita Modlin (BCTR ’16), Former Elementary Teacher; current BCTR Pre-Service Training Director and Effectiveness Coach

What made you decide to join the Baltimore City Teaching Residency?

Baba: I was a Social Science major in college. I knew I wanted to pursue education after graduation, but I didn't want to go through the education department. I interviewed with the BCTR and was accepted into the program in 2006. There are several educators in my family, including my mother, who has been an educator for more than 20 years. I love the idea of paying it forward for our young people – that was and still is a big motivating factor for me.

Ashley: My background is in health research. I noticed that a lot of older adults who had gone through Baltimore City schools didn't know how to read, which led to disparities in access to health information and care. At that time, I was pregnant with my daughter, and I grew concerned about what her education would look like in Baltimore City. I already had two degrees, so I knew I didn’t want to go back to school to become an educator. I looked at different alternative certification programs, but BCTR’s six-week summer program and more reasonable cost were the best fit for me.

Shanita: I am from Baltimore City and have lived here my entire life. I went through the public school system, which is why this work is near and dear to my heart; it is home for me. I started college as an education major, but I couldn't pass the math portion of the Praxis exam, so I thought teaching wasn't for me. I went on and graduated from Towson University with an English (Business Writing) degree, and used my skills in different fields, like finance, community, and non-profit organizations. In 2016, I saw an ad for BCTR, and I thought I would give it a try.

What do you love about being an educator in the Baltimore community?

Baba: First and foremost, I love watching children grow, and realizing we are a vessel for them along the way. Recently, I had two kids visit my office. They are about to go to college and just a few years ago, they were in my 8th grade classroom! I was amazed. I've also really come to enjoy watching young teachers grow into themselves and grow into leaders. I've hired a teacher from the BCTR every year since I've been a principal, and they are all still at the school and still teaching. I'm just proud to be a part of the journey they are on.

Ashley: I like not just the students but also the connections I make with their families. Especially as an ECE teacher, I feel like much more than an educator; I'm a resource hub. I feel like a valuable part of each family's life, helping them with housing, transportation, social services – even the computer. I really get to see them learn, grow and develop, which goes back to my background in health. Those years [in health research] were not wasted. In the position I am now, I'm still serving the community in a multitude of capacities.

Shanita: I love seeing the growth of children, and the impact that education has on them as they go from not believing in themselves to realizing they can do it. As teachers, we must see past the gaps in our students, and look at what they can be, not just what the world sees. That's the impact that education has, and the impact that the community has had on me – that I am able to see my potential and my children's potential. The beauty of that: it brightens, it colors, it illuminates. 

Why do you think it is so important to teach at this moment in time?

Baba: We are living in (and hopefully coming to the end of) a once-in-a-hundred-year pandemic. Our children didn’t ask for this, but we have a responsibility and an obligation to help them fulfill their dreams. Right now, in this moment, we need teachers. Is the work easy? Well, it's very challenging, but also very rewarding. Our kids love and need their teachers – now more than ever.

Ashley: The students need quality instructors in front of them who are ready to show up each and every day. With the ever-changing world we live in and inconsistencies of daily life, it’s so important for students to have that consistent adult for their overall development as a human. There is so much we can share with our students. For example, when my daughter’s friends come by the house and see my teaching supplies, they look at me like I’m a unicorn! I had a third grader tell me they’ve never had a Black teacher before, and that she hopes her teacher is Black this year. As adults, we hear this all the time – representation in the classroom matters. But hearing it from a child was a lot more powerful.

Shanita: I'd go back to potential. The world only sees what's in front of it. Rita Pierson said, “Every child deserves a champion.” I mean, let's get in the trenches, roll up our sleeves and become that champion – a real superhero – not by trying to save our children, but by doing the work. Do what's right, not what’s easy. Kids need someone who isn't going to quit on them.

As we celebrate BCTR’s 20th anniversary, are there any final thoughts you’d like to share?

Baba: Some of my favorite people in education that I've ever met have come through the BCTR program. I'm honored to speak for the program. Since its inception, BCTR has helped change thousands of lives – the lives of the educators, and the lives of their students. That is an immeasurable legacy. Children who were taught by BCTR teachers are doing incredible things in this city.

Ashley: I love that there are so many possibilities with a career in education. I don't feel stifled. I could teach a different subject, grade level, or community; I could step into leadership. There are so many avenues to grow and develop in this field. I love that I've been spending the past three or four years coaching new teachers through BCTR’s summer pre-service training. I love to share my joy with them. And teaching taps into my creative side, too. I can show up as whoever I want to be in the classroom, have fun, be playful and even transform the classroom into an underwater sea world! I am motivated to learn what interests the students and figure out ways to incorporate those interests into the next lesson. There is a lot of grading, paperwork and stress in teaching – but I can always find some joy in parts of my day.

Shanita: I'm just so happy to be a part of BCTR. It is just so magical. I'm happy that we have been here for 20 years, making an impact, and that we are still going strong. We don't settle for the way we've always done things; we are innovative in how we try to meet the needs of our students and our residents. It is a beautiful and humbling thing to be part of a 20-year legacy, and to know that my name is in there somewhere.

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

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