Fellowship Striving to Change Teacher Prep

Jul 27, 2011 by

Candice B. Kissinger spent some 35 years as a research scientist in the pharmaceutical industry. Jeremy M. Sebens, with a degree in aerospace engineering, worked in the oil industry and for a company building radio-controlled model airplanes. Hwa Y. Tsu majored in engineering and has done graduate-level biomedical research.

All three are now part of Indiana’s teaching workforce through an intensive fellowship program that prepares individuals with STEM expertise—whether career-changers or those fresh out of college—for jobs in secondary schools serving disadvantaged populations.

At the same time, the program, first announced in 2007, strives to promote changes in university-based teacher preparation, including extensive clinical experiences in public school classrooms, analogous to the training doctors receive.

Indiana was the first state to get started in the fellowship program, established by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, in Princeton, N.J. The state’s third cohort of teacher-candidates was announced at a May event that featured Gov. Mitch Daniels.

The first sets of fellows for Michigan and Ohio were named this spring. The eventual goal, according to the foundation, is to have similar initiatives in eight to 10 states.

Each participant earns a teaching certificate and a master’s degree and receives a $30,000 scholarship. In return, fellows commit to teaching for three years in a school serving a significant population of students at risk of academic failure.

Classroom Practice

Many fellows say the best part of the experience is the time in middle and high school classrooms. They typically work in schools several days a week for a full academic year as part of their preparation, observing and providing classroom support and eventually taking on lead-teaching duties in consultation with the classroom teacher.

“You could take the theory you’re learning and apply it the very next day and come back and say, ‘Hey this worked great,’ or ‘It didn’t work at all,’ ” said Mr. Sebens, who was hired to teach engineering this fall at H.L. Harshman Magnet Middle School in Indianapolis.

“The part that prepared me the most was just the actual experience of being in the classroom and being mentored by classroom teachers,” said Mr. Tsu, who just completed his first year as a full-time teacher of physics and physical science at North Central High School in the Washington Township district, in Indianapolis.

via Education Week: Fellowship Striving to Change Teacher Prep.

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