Student teacher Joshua Wisnubroto goes through a worksheet with a student at Picnic Point Elementary School. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Student teacher Joshua Wisnubroto goes through a worksheet with a student at Picnic Point Elementary School. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Pilot program in Mukilteo schools gets local teachers in local schools

Four teacher residents, all former paraeducators, are getting special education endorsements — and getting paid as student teachers.

MUKILTEO — It’s a Friday morning at Picnic Point Elementary as student teacher Joshua Wisnubroto leads a special education classroom in a rousing singalong and dance about going into space.

“We’re going on a rocket ship, we’re going to the moon,” he sang.

Becoming a certified teacher is like a lunar landing for Wisnubroto, 28, a former paraeducator and 2013 Kamiak High School graduate and basketball player.

A pilot program is making that one giant leap possible.

Student teacher Joshua Wisnubroto helps a Picnic Point Elementary student work on a calendar activity. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Student teacher Joshua Wisnubroto helps a Picnic Point Elementary student work on a calendar activity. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The Mukilteo School District is partnering with the Washington Education Association, a statewide teachers union, in a teacher residency program. The teaching residents have mentors and financial support, such as paid student teaching. They earn a teaching credential and a special education endorsement.

The program helps certify educators who reflect their diverse learners and communities. It also helps fill the need for special education teachers.

The state education association might be the first union of educators nationwide to implement an apprentice program like this. This school year’s program has 15 teacher residents in three school districts: Mukilteo, Federal Way and Walla Walla. The program is expanding to nine districts for the 2024-25 school year.

In addition to Wisnubroto, teacher residents in Mukilteo are Claire Xie, Curtis Adkins and Hanna Kinyk, all former paraeducators.

Residents have a teaching mentor, field supervisor and coach over the residency year. Districts provide a minimum of $35,000 compensation for the year, plus benefits.

This removes one barrier to certification, said education association spokesperson Julie Popper.

A photo of student teacher Joshua Wisnubroto as an astronaut on a class board. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A photo of student teacher Joshua Wisnubroto as an astronaut on a class board. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“Especially aspiring educators of color getting into teaching and staying into teaching,” Popper said. “Part of it is addressing the financial burden of unpaid student teaching. But a large part of it is getting mentorship as a student teacher but also as an early career educator. Once teachers are certified and get into the classroom the next hurdle is dealing with the increased attrition, particularly for teachers of color in the first few years of teaching.”

Wisnubroto, who has a bachelor’s degree in early childhood and family studies, said he always wanted to be a teacher.

“My senior year of high school I started tutoring at Columbia Elementary, but I didn’t know which pathway to go to get into teaching,” he said.

He started the residency program last summer and will finish in August. He is engaged to marry a Mukilteo district teacher.

Student teacher Joshua Wisnubroto helps a student cut a piece of paper. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Student teacher Joshua Wisnubroto helps a student cut a piece of paper. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

His four nine-week rotations are at an elementary school, a middle school and two high schools.

“I will have four categories of the special education classroom, so more exposure and more experience,” Wisnubroto said. “It’s definitely a non-traditional schooling.”

His next rotation after Picnic Point is at Mariner High School teaching special education learning strategies classes and co-teaching inclusive English classes.

“Totally different from an autism room in an elementary,” he said. “This program helps teachers be more committed in the long-run and be more classroom-ready.”

Applications for residents in the 2024-25 school year are being accepted at

Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree or higher prior to the program start date. Mukilteo applicants must be current district employees. Other districts do not require this.

After completing the program, residents receive a conditional job offer in their residency school district. They must commit to working as a certificated teacher in their district for three years upon offer of employment.

Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443;; Twitter: @reporterbrown.

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