Jordan R: Cultivating Community Through the Seattle Teacher Residency Program

Meet Jordan Rocco, a third grade teacher at Olympic Hills Elementary and graduate of the Seattle Teacher Residency’s (STR) fifth cohort. Jordan’s first year teaching was in 2020, a year that was not easy for even the most seasoned teachers, but luckily he was able to navigate with the help of the community built through the STR program. In fact, it’s the spirit of community that inspired him to pursue a career in education in the first place, and it’s what drives him to be a supportive presence for Seattle students. 

The life lessons and values his late mother instilled in him are what Jordan credits as the first inspiration for wanting to teach. But after her passing, it was the way teachers, coaches and mentors showed their support that solidified his choice – he knew he was destined to help young people in some way. 

“Not having that teacher in my life anymore is when people stepped in and I realized people actually do care. Through Z-speed, football, track, those mentors and coaches were my teachers,” said Jordan. 

Much like the supporters in his life throughout childhood, Jordan found mentors while at City Year who introduced him to the STR program. While in STR, residents experience classroom apprenticeship with aligned, graduate-level, equity-centered coursework and an intensive resident/mentor partnership that aims to accelerate student achievement through the training, support and retention of excellent and justice-focused teachers. Jordan will be the first to admit that the program is challenging, but the built-in community of support is what got him through, making him the first in his family to receive a master’s degree.

“They watched me struggle, even in STR, but they never gave up on me. I couldn’t have done this without the people around me,” added Jordan.

At Olympic Hills, Jordan has 13 STR alumni to lean on for support. Graduates of the program commit to working five years in Seattle Public Schools, which places highly-qualified, culturally competent educators in the classroom while also creating an extended cohort in the field. Through shared experience, STR graduates relate to one another in a comfortable environment and help each other navigate those early years working as an educator.

“My first year teaching by myself was the COVID year. But fortunately, I had an STR alumni teacher with me,  Allison Hawley, and it made things easier,” Jordan said.

Extending that same encouragement he receives, Jordan strives to support his students by being a positive presence and reminding them that it’s okay to try again.

“Working in a classroom, it’s a brand new day everyday. It’s a start over day too, that’s what I like to call it. We have a bad day one day, but we come back the next day and we start over,” added Jordan.

He is humble in recognizing that we don’t know what a student’s circumstances are at home, and that some lessons are more challenging than others.

“I looked around my class at my 25 students and thought to myself, ‘I’m here every day teaching 25 kids. Whether or not I make an impact on their life, I know every single day that they make an impact on mine. And that’s why I keep going back to work’,” said Jordan.

Learn more about the STR program and consider supporting a teacher like Jordan with a gift to celebrate 10 years of teacher preparation in Seattle.