SOUTHERN INDIANA — For those studying to become educators, student-teaching is a necessity, but the work is often short-term and unpaid. For some college students in Indiana, a statewide grant program is providing a different type of experience.
The Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s Teacher Residency Grant Pilot Program is funding a full school year of student teaching for college students across the state, and more than $1 million has been awarded for the 2022-23 school year. In Floyd County, Community Montessori and New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. will continue with the program for their third year.
For the upcoming school year, Community Montessori, a charter school in New Albany, will receive $45,000 to support three student-teachers, and NAFCS will receive $30,000 for two student teachers. Indiana University Southeast is the post-secondary partner for the program in Floyd County, so IUS students in the School of Education will be paired with mentors in the two schools.
The residency grant program was established by the Indiana General Assembly in 2019, and it launched in the 2020-21 school year. Josh Garrison, associate commissioner for legislation and program implementation, said the program started small with 37 residents in the 2020-21 school year, but in the upcoming school year, it will fund 70 residents.
For schools in Indiana, the program can help “build their own pipelines to retain educators in the area.”
“It’s a full-year experience, and they built rapport and connections in the community,” he said. “Hopefully they stay around to teach in the area.”
Faye Camahalan, dean of the IUS School of Education, said a total of $90,000 is going toward IUS students through the teacher residency program for the upcoming school year. In addition to continuing the partnership with Community Montessori and NAFCS, IUS will send one student-teacher to Seymour Community Schools in the 2022-23 school year through a $15,000 grant.
The grant strengthens partnerships between IUS and local K-12 schools, she said, and it also helps the student-teachers receive jobs soon after or even before graduation. To be eligible for the program, students must be enrolled in the IUS School of Education. Most of the grant funding goes toward the student-teachers, but mentors at the K-12 schools and university faculty guiding the residents also receive grants through the program.
For NAFCS, IUS is sending students who majoring in secondary education, and for Community Montessori, the university is focusing on students who can work with early education and elementary students. For Seymour Community Schools, the resident will be focused on special education or English Language Learners (ELL).
The state requires a minimum of 10 weeks of full-time student teaching for those studying to become educators, and at IUS, it consists of 13 weeks, according to Camahalan. The longer duration of the residency program allows the students to receive a richer experience.
The IUS students are treated as employees at the schools where they serve as residents, and they get to honor skills such as “aligning theory to practice,” Camahalan said. She appreciates the way the program is inspired by medical residency and apprenticeship programs, saying it “boosts the quality” of preparation before students become licensed to teach.
“They have more confidence being in the classroom,” she said. “They have more classroom management skills, they have more relationship-building skills, not just with students, but with other co-teachers and with the school administrators and other school personnel.”
As the country and region faces a teacher shortage, the residency program can help strengthen retention of teachers within the region, she said.
AN ‘EYE-OPENING’ EXPERIENCE
Morgan Miner, who graduated from the IUS School of Education in December, was one of two students who received the teacher residency grant to teach at Community Montessori in the 2021-22 school year. Since starting the program, she actually was hired by the school.
She is teaching students ages 6 to 9, and her experience as a teacher resident at the New Albany school introduced her to the Montessori philosophy of education, which is different from what she experienced growing up in a traditional K-12 school environment.
“It’s been unlike anything else,” she said. “It’s been eye-opening, and I had no idea before this that there was such as way to educate learners in such a hands-on way that really lets them take over their own education.”
Miner said she has connected with the kids through the year-long program, and she gets to see them grow throughout the school year.
“It’s very helpful as a teacher to see that from start to finish how they change,” she said.
Barbara Burke Fondren, director of Community Montessori, said the residency program is a “creative way to try and and encourage people to finish their course work and student teaching,” and she likes the opportunity to expose residents to a different educational philosophy through the Montessori method.
“It’s a way for them to finish their degree at a time when we need more teachers in our schools, and also, it allows them in our case to see a philosophy they’re not as familiar with,” she said. “Often, we consider them for teaching positions.”
Louis Jensen, associate superintendent at NAFCS, said the residency can serve as an “on-the-job interview” for student-teachers, and as NAFCS continues with the program, the hope is to find positions in the district for those completing the residencies .
In the first year of the program at NAFCS, the residents taught at Hazelwood Middle School and Scribner Middle School. This school year, Anna and Jacob Sloan are teaching at New Albany High School through the residency program.
The couple are both seniors at IUS, and they were both nominated for the grant by IUS School of Education faculty. Anna is teaching English, and Jacob is teaching world history and US history.
The grant was “a hidden blessing that came out of nowhere,” Anna said, and they have enjoyed working with students since the beginning of the school year.
“We have had the pleasure of knowing the kids, getting to know them on a personal level and working really well with our mentors to figure out exactly what we want to co-teach,” Jacob said. “I think that really helped with classroom management and I think that really helped with building a rapport with the students.”
Anna said “observing teaching and practicing teaching are two very different things,” and this semester, she has been actively teaching in the classroom. As a student-teacher, working alongside NAHS teachers has “given us so many ideas that we’ll take on to wherever we’ll go next,” she said.
“Once you have that experience where you’re in the classroom and observing and all that different stuff, it’s such a benefit,” she said. “I’ve even talked to teachers who are a little further along in their careers, and they’re like, the classes are amazing that you take in college, and the theories that you learn are really helpful and amazing, but the best thing that you can do is have observation and have experience and go in and try things…to be here for a year has been incredible.”
Receiving the grant also relieved financial burdens for Jacob and Anna — they each received $12,000 for the full year. In the fall semester, they were working as both full-time students and full-time student teachers, so they would have to go straight into IUS classes multiple times a week. Through the grant, it prevented them from working jobs on the weekend, according to Anna.
“It was really nice getting funding through the grant,” Jacob said. “It allowed us to really not worry as much about finances and focus more on school, which helps out a lot…it allowed us to work here full-time and not have a part-time job outside of teaching. That gave us a lot of extra time for things like lesson planning and all that goes into teaching outside of school.”
Jamie Crick, assistant principal of staff at NAHS, said “relationships are key” for teachers, and “if you build those relationships, learning will evolve.” She noted the benefits for the school to have Anna and Jacob working as student-teachers for the whole year.
“For them to have the opportunity to build the relationships and for us to have the opportunity to have two more invested adults building relationships with students, it obviously benefits students, it benefits learning, and I think they’ve been matched very well,” she said.