Denver Teacher Residency (DTR) is Denver Public Schools’ (DPS) unique teacher recruitment and training program aimed at career changers and older professionals who want to become teachers. It is modeled after medical residency programs where people are put in classrooms with mentor teachers for a whole school year. Supplemented with master’s level classwork and instruction from the University of Denver, cohorts finish DTR with real classroom experience, a master’s degree from DU and knowledge to prepare them for a teaching career with DPS. DTR approached Philosophy Communication to help with media outreach to enlist applicants for the program.
It was a straightforward request with straightforward goals. DPS wanted media coverage in Colorado that would build a pool of at least 300 applicants. The biggest challenge facing Philosophy and DTR was timing. The bulk of the applicant recruitment campaign runs in December and January, so we knew we’d be competing for media coverage against holiday, year-end and general news stories. Plus, people tend to be checked out at the end of the year, focusing on family and travel priorities.
Rather than just putting out a general “we need applicants” type of story, Philosophy did some anecdotal research and learned that the residency model in the education world was considered new and innovative. Only a handful of teacher residency models existed across the country, and many of them referred to DTR as the example program. With that in mind, we used the residency model as the basis of our story planning. We connected with people who had already been through the program and used their stories to engage the media. The result was a media campaign that was targeted and effective. At the pinnacle of the campaign was a feature story in the Associated Press, which ran in dozens of newspapers and online outlets. DTR surpassed it’s applicant goal, receiving 336 qualified recruits.