August 17, 2021

Program designed to put new science and math teachers in Indianapolis Public Schools ready for its next class

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Medical school was the original goal for Megan Johnson, who graduated with a biology degree from Indiana University in December 2020 and worked on the mother and baby floor for a local hospital.

But two years of coaching middle school basketball prompted a radical change in plans. She decided she wanted to be a teacher and, in researching programs online, she discovered the Indy STEM Teacher Residency (ISTR) Program, a partnership between Indianapolis Public Schools and Purdue University.

The goal of ISTR is to elevate student achievement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines by training people with the educational or professional background – but without extensive teaching experience – to teach science or mathematics in grades 5-12. That sounded like just what Johnson was looking for, and she’s one of the program’s first cohort of participants.

“Spending time substitute teaching and coaching, I discovered the disparities within my own community,” Johnson said. “Seeing various achievement gaps firsthand made me lean toward a program working with underserved student populations.”

Purdue is looking for a new cohort of 15 business, industry or academic professionals with strong science and math backgrounds who are interested in a career change teaching middle and high school students. To find out more about the ISTR program, visit the program’s website.  

ISTR includes classroom practice and clinical experience in an IPS classroom, graduate-level coursework and new teacher guidance and support. In this teacher residency program, individuals complete their coursework alongside a yearlong field experience in the school district in which the prospective teacher will be hired. Each ISTR Resident Teacher partners with a science or mathematics teacher in an IPS classroom and learns targeted instructional strategies, paced throughout the academic year, testing, practicing and refining each strategy as they go.

ISTR candidates also complete problem- and project-based activities designed to help them develop the knowledge, skills and dispositions for integrating engineering and technology design into science, mathematics and computer science instruction in culturally and socially relevant ways.

“The ISTR program not only extensively prepares teachers for the classroom but also ensures they are culturally informed and responsive,” Johnson said. “My students deserve the best education they can get regardless of their backgrounds.”

ISTR resident teachers receive a stipend of $46,500 in three payments over 18 months in the form of a forgivable loan in return for a three-year teaching commitment in IPS.

“I really couldn't pass up this opportunity; there’s a lot of support from Purdue for residents, and they really want to set up educators for success, to become leaders and changemakers in education,” said Jared Simoneaux, who has a bachelor’s degree in animal behavior from Indiana University and worked for several years as an outdoor instructor at a camp for inner-city kids.

By the end of the program, ISTR resident teachers have completed:

  • Requirements for Indiana state teaching licensure at the secondary level (Grades 5-12) in at least one STEM discipline (chemistry, earth science, life science, physics, or mathematics).
  • A Purdue University 18-month online master’s degree program in curriculum and instruction with a STEM concentration.
  • A graduate certificate in K-12 integrated STEM education.
  • Up to three computer science courses.
  • An induction program that supports and mentors teachers in their professional growth and development.

The program is funded by a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education and involves Indianapolis schools, Purdue’s colleges of Science and Education and CATALYST, an interdisciplinary research-oriented unit in the College of Education focused on building and supporting a community of educational professionals who are dedicated to advancing K-12 STEM teaching and learning.

“IPS is an agile, innovative educational organization committed to academic excellence fostered through individualized, relationship-based learning,” said Lynn Bryan, CATALYST director and professor of science education. “We are excited to partner with them in preparing highly qualified and innovative middle and high school STEM teachers who are dedicated to elevating students’ achievement and interest in STEM.”

Writer: Greg Kline, 765-426-8545, gkline@purdue.edu

Source: Lynn Bryan, labryan@purdue.edu

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