University of Pittsburgh School of Education

Urban Scholars Program

Teachers who want to become successful must develop and nurture positive relationships with students, family members, and colleagues. These relationships are particularly crucial to success in urban schools, where many students—and generations of family members before them—have often been labeled as “failures” and feel that they’re not valued.

To accomplish this goal, a group of educators from the School of Education’s Department of Instruction and Learning, Pittsburgh Brashear High School, and Propel Braddock Hills High School developed and launched the Urban Scholars Program. The program prepares preservice teachers to be successful in urban schools by pairing them with skilled mentors who help build positive relationships with students.

Secondary (grades 7–12) preservice teachers across all core subject areas (English, foreign languages, mathematics, science, and social studies) are involved in the program. In addition to Brashear and Propel, students are matched with mentors at schools like Allderdice, Carrick, King Pre-K–8, Langley K–8, and Propel Andrew Street. The urban scholars’ work includes publishing weekly class newsletters for distribution to parents, in-school and after-school tutoring, coaching, and organizing activities like weekly pizza lunches to recognize and celebrate students’ achievements.

If you are interested in becoming an Urban Scholar, please contact Beth Sondel 
at or 412-648-7305 to learn more about the program.

What follows is a series of videos created by the School of Education that detail the progression of four Urban Scholars going through a full year of the program.

Urban Scholars Program - Episode 1: Getting Started

In the initial episode, Director of Teacher Education Jennifer Cartier and Partnership Liason Devin Browne explain the reasoning behind the Urban Scholars Program. In addition, meet the four preservice teachers you will follow throughout the series: Nina Brocavich (math), Zach Zelenak (physics), Ameeta Schmidt (foreign language), and Carolyn Reiner (chemistry).

Urban Scholars Program - Episode 2: Early Days

Episode two shows the scholars’ first days of teaching as they offer up their initial reactions, what has surprised them, struggles they’re having, and the transition from sitting in a class to leading one.

Urban Scholars Program - Episode 3: Support

A group of 10 urban scholars gather to discuss their teaching experiences with each other, as well as meeting individually with their mentor teachers.

Urban Scholars Program - Episode 4: In the Classroom

Episode four follows the four students into the classroom to depict their progress.

Urban Scholars Program - Episode 5: Reflection

As the year wraps up, the soon-to-be teachers look back upon their experiences, how they’ve changed, the most important things they’ve learned, and how the program has prepared them to lead their own class.