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Maxfield teacher and students in classroom

Innovative teacher preparation

Maxfield Elementary Collaborative Learning School

University of St. Thomas students and faculty members are proud partners with Saint Paul Public Schools' Maxfield Elementary, named a Collaborative Learning School in January 2023.

As a Collaborative Learning School, Maxfield Elementary partners with St. Thomas to prepare teachers, develop and apply best practices for teaching and learning, and provide professional development opportunities to create incredible student-centered learning environments. This innovative partnership incorporates promising practices for addressing the needs of all learners while preparing and developing effective teachers.

When the Field Becomes the Classroom

Education students - both undergraduates and graduates - from St. Thomas are immersed in the Maxfield Elementary community from the first day of school and throughout the year. We are grateful to be learning from and contributing to this strong, existing Saint Paul school.

maxfield teacher with st. thomas student

Student Impact

Well-Prepared Teachers Lead to Better Student Outcomes

The School of Education's partnership with Maxfield Elementary improves our ability to prepare future teachers at St. Thomas. Students learn in the field from experienced Saint Paul Public Schools teachers, while a dedicated classroom on-site allows faculty members and students to build skills and immediately apply them to the classroom. We are working to remove the gap between classroom learning and teaching in the field.

dean amy smith with maxfield teachers

Community Support

Mutually Beneficial Community Experience

St. Thomas enjoys many existing partnerships that give our students a variety of field experiences. But our work with Maxfield students and teachers provides a true immersive experience within our St. Paul community. This two-way partnership gives St. Thomas students the chance to partner with and learn from veteran teachers on everything from classroom set-up to after-school tutoring. Additionally, St. Thomas faculty members and Maxfield teachers and staff regularly participate in common professional development opportunities.

amy smith and leslie hitchens with superintendent

Inside Maxfield Elementary

Go inside our community and hear more about what faculty, teachers and students are doing together at Maxfield Elementary.

Making a Difference

Unique experiences at Maxfield Elementary help St. Thomas students gain critical skills they will need later in the classroom, and the added resources give Maxfield teachers more tools to support Saint Paul students.

Reading Support

St. Thomas students provide literacy tutoring to K-2 students who are reading below grade level. Maxfield learners will increase their reading skills, and teacher candidates will get early training, practice and support in teaching literacy before their student-teaching experiences.

Math Tutoring

Launched in spring 2023, after-school math enrichment is provided for students using the Rational Number Project. The project is led by School of Education Professor Dr. Debra Monson in collaboration with Maxfield Elementary teachers and math specialists.

Playful Learning

In collaboration with Maxfield Elementary teachers, experts from the award-winning Playful Learning Lab will develop and implement education projects that apply the latest advances in teaching literacy, math and social-emotional skills using Playful Learning concepts.

We’re all working for the same goal: first and foremost to improve educational outcomes for K-5 learners at Maxfield Elementary. Integral to this goal is providing both innovative and evidence-based learning opportunities for teachers that ensure all teachers – emerging and practicing – are resilient and ready to respond to the evolving needs of all students, families and the community. By researching, learning and innovating to identify, develop and apply best practices of the future we can inform learning transformation locally, nationally and globally.

Dr. Amy Smith, Dean, School of Education


As a Collaborative Learning School, Maxfield Elementary partners with the St. Thomas School of Education to prepare teachers, develop and apply best practices for teaching and learning, and provide professional development to create incredible student-centered learning environments.

Collaborative learning schools are popular in many bigger cities. Educational improvement efforts have often been driven by policy makers, researchers, and other individuals distant from the day-to-day experiences of teachers and students, or centered on the needs of a singular type of student. By entering into this collaboration, St. Thomas and Maxfield Elementary will learn from each other. This brings the expertise of St. Thomas faculty and Maxfield teachers together, to not only implement known best practices, but to jointly observe, learn and co-design new best practices that serve the students at both institutions. These are the leaders of our future community.

This innovative model will enhance our students' abilities to be ready to lead a classroom on day one. The School of Education has enjoyed many other successful partnerships with Saint Paul Public Schools as we both work urgently to recruit and prepare teachers to serve the Saint Paul community.

Both undergraduate and graduate students engage with Maxfield Elementary students and teachers. Thanks to the embedded classroom at Maxfield, St. Thomas faculty members are able to bring classes over to Maxfield for regular instruction. After-school programs and targeted learning opportunities also give Tommies ample ways to learn from Maxfield teachers and apply their new skills in the field. This is on top of placing 6-8 teacher candidates annually at Maxfield for yearlong student-teaching experiences.

With Gratitude

The School of Education extends enormous gratitude to our donors who made it possible to conceive of, design and execute the partnership that drives the Maxfield Elementary Collaborative Learning School.
Photo of Archie and Jane Black

Archie and Jane Black

We are grateful for the generous financial gift Archie and Jane Black provided that made it possible to bring this collaboration to life. With their support, St. Thomas was able to work with a collaborative planning agency to conceive of, design and implement this groundbreaking partnership with Saint Paul Public Schools.
Photo of Phil and Margie Soran

Phil and Margie Soran

Phil and Margie Soran know that strong leaders make all the difference, especially if they have the resources they need to thrive. With their financial support, dedicated staff members will focus on research goals, professional development and classroom learning opportunities for pre-service teachers at Maxfield Elementary.

Our founder, Archbishop John Ireland, opened St. Thomas to educate underserved immigrants and eliminate barriers to their success. One hundred thirty-eight years later, by partnering with Saint Paul Public Schools to open a collaborative learning school, St. Thomas is modeling ways of dismantling disparities and educating teachers who will help ensure that children receive a high-quality education.

Robert K. Vischer, President, University of St. Thomas