NAUGATUCK, Conn. (WTNH) — To third graders at Hop Brook Elementary School in Naugatuck, Arvelys Silverio is already a teacher and mentor, even though she’s still learning.

She’s a resident working beside teacher Lisa Taft.

“Having the experience to be in the class since the first day is really a nice experience,” Silverio said. “Having a mentor like Lisa is also a great support.”

She is among approximately 44 others in the Teacher Residency Program (TRP). It’s a statewide effort to get more teachers, particularly those of color, in the classroom.

“I’m Hispanic, so they relate to me,” Silverio said.

“Right now, we only have 10% of teachers that identify as teachers of color, and over 50% of students identify as people of color,” said Marlen Megos, the director of TRP.

Megos said this is an alternate route to teacher certification that focuses on diversifying teachers. The residents take classes themselves while hands-on learning in a classroom and earning a paycheck.

It’s a gradual release program. The resident shadows their mentor more at the start of the school year. At this point in the school year, they’ve really started to take over the teaching.

“It’s great when they come back and say, ‘I was able to try that with a student, and they loved it,'” said an instructor and program coach Tatyana Duncan. “So it’s almost that instant gratification of when you learn something in class and are able to go out and work with those students.”

Learning to teach and giving all​ students in the classroom a mentor to look up to — it’s what’s right with schools.

“I enjoy seeing how they learn, how they project or shine when they get something.”

Visit the Teacher Residency Program‘s website to learn more.