At LAUSD, new efforts to retain beginner teachers

File photo. Los Angeles Unified named 23 beginner teachers
File photo. Los Angeles Unified named 23 beginner teachers "Rookies of the Year." The move is part of the district's efforts to retain top teaching talent.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images

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Los Angeles Unified is ramping up its efforts to hold onto beginner teachers — a new award program called "Rookies of the Year" will celebrate 23 excellent first-year teachers.

"I’m still in shock," said winner Rosalinda Aleman, a new kindergarten teacher at Franklin Avenue Elementary School. 

Aleman was selected from more than 900 teachers in the district who tried the job for the first time during the 2014-2015 school year. The prize includes a Dodgers baseball game Sunday, enjoyed from a private suite, as well as an appearance on the stadium's jumbotron. 

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Winners were chosen by a committee that selected from a field of 87 nominated teachers. The award recognizes engaging teaching styles, effectiveness and strong classroom routines, among other things. It's supported by the California Credit Union, which created the Rookie of the Year program, and Security Benefit, a retirement savings company.

The new award is all part of a larger strategy to retain top talent during a time when teachers are increasingly in short supply. 

California is facing the biggest demand for teachers in nearly a decade — across the state more than 21,000 new teachers will be needed for the 2015-2016 school year, according to projections from the California Department of Education. That's a 25 percent increase from the 2014-2015 school year. 

Teaching is a notoriously tough job. Los Angeles Unified's retention rate for new teachers was 92 percent for the 2013-2014 school year, the most recent data available.

Justo Avila, the district's chief human resources officer, said he'd like to see that number go up. 

"The district is making great efforts on supporting our new teachers,” he said. “I don’t want them looking for help. I want help brought to them.” 

Aleman said after this year she feel like a warrior.

"You’re doing grading, you’re doing testing, you’re doing all these different things," she said. "It was hard. But I had lots of support."

That support includes resources from Avila's staff — a team called Teacher Quality Specialists. They assist teachers during their first year. New teachers can get help setting up their classrooms, learning technology, even navigating their paychecks. 

For the 2015-2016 school year, which starts August 18, about 300 new teachers will work in LAUSD classrooms, according to Avila. 

Full list of winners provided by the district: