From Instructional Assistant to Lead Teacher: A Teacher Residency Story

From Instructional Assistant to Lead Teacher: A Teacher Residency Story

In 2019, Samantha Benedicto joined the KIPP Pueblo Unido founding team as a kindergarten Instructional Assistant without the intention of ever becoming a teacher. But with every challenging yet enriching experience at KPU, Benedicto grew to see her limitless potential and was finally starting to see teaching in her future. 

So, after two years as an Instructional Assistant, Benedicto was ready to apply for the KIPP SoCal Teacher Residency Program at the Alder Graduate School of Education. Through the program, Benedicto was able to work towards earning her teaching credential and master's degree and gain classroom experience — all in one year.

A typical week in the program included four days in the classroom with a seasoned KIPP lead teacher and one day in a cohort seminar. Because of this highly immersive program schedule, Benedicto built stamina and familiarity with what a teacher's average school day looked like and felt like.

“Throughout this whole experience, I was still questioning if I was capable of being a teacher or questioning if this was the right role for me, but I think the hands-on experience at all stages really confirmed that I could do this,” Benedicto said. 

She was lucky enough to be placed at KPU with a teacher mentor she admired and had previously worked with as an Instructional Assistant. But what made this even more special was her mentor's ability to make her feel like she belonged. 


From helping her find a balance between school and work to helping her find her teaching style, Benedicto credits a lot of her confidence and values as a student-centered educator to the time she spent in the classroom with her teacher mentor. 

"Having her there and available was invaluable,” Benedicto said. “As I started leading more, I needed that quick consult to build my confidence, and it was really nice to have her guidance and presence there.” 

Despite the heavy workload, Benedicto also felt immense support, respect, and grace from her school community, grad school cohort, and graduate professors. Every week, she continued building her confidence and was grateful to find a community she could always lean on to ground her and cheer her on.

At the end of her program, Benedicto not only walked away with a wealth of knowledge, experience and confidence — but she also walked away with a Lead Teacher position at KPU. Last year, 100% of the KIPP SoCal Teacher Residents received an offer from KIPP SoCal.

“It was a pretty natural jump going into the residency program and then into my first year. It felt like all the pieces were connecting and it didn't feel like I was thrown into the deep end,” Benedicto said. “I felt like I knew what each stage brought.”

Benedicto strongly believes that the KIPP SoCal Teacher Residency Program provides the perfect environment to learn, grow and build community. She encourages those who are even slightly curious—or doubtful—about teaching to apply. 

“In the day-to-day, you don’t feel like you’re alone. You feel very much a part of something bigger. And I think that's where I see KIPP’s student-first, people-first, and community-centered values play out,” said Benedicto.

Learn more about our Teacher Residency Program