The School of Education at the University of Indianapolis was awarded $262,801 from the Indiana Commission of Higher Education through the 2017 Indiana STEM Teacher Recruitment Fund Grant. The grant will help fund recruitment and retention efforts for the Teach Today: Transform Tomorrow program and focus on elementary teachers who teach science, engineering, technology and math.
The Teach (STEM)3 Program, a Master’s program that works with students who have STEM undergraduate degrees and want to become teachers, has gotten the grant in the past, according to Director of Elementary Education and Professor Nancy Steffel. The Teach (STEM)3 Program was asked to apply for it again but had just received a grant for the National Science Foundation so the faculty suggested Steffel and Instructor in the School of Education Libby Turner apply. Steffel and Turner said they had about three weeks to put together all of the materials and submit the application.
“It wasn’t that we didn’t have stuff formulated because we had tried for another grant,” Steffel said. “So we had materials that we could start pulling from plus this evolution of the program that we’ve started working on since 2013. We had a lot of documents… [and] data.… We felt a little more solid about how we wanted to focus this application.”
Turner said that there are three main selling points for the program. It follows the K-6 school calendar and not UIndy’s calendar, so students graduate in three and a half years. Students will have a recommendation for three licenses in elementary education, special education and reading, as well as a STEM concentration. Students also will have their STEM education running throughout the program.
Steffel described this as a rope with three areas of learning running through to make up the larger program. Students will learn content, methods and have field experience at the same time, as opposed to a traditional program that has two years of content, a year of methods and then a year of field experience, according to Steffel.
Turner said when writing the proposal, they looked at the programs strengths and also focused on what the grant was looking for.
“We knew they wanted recruitment so, like we said, we looked at the schools around us….,” Turner said. “The second piece we put into it is thinking about underrepresented populations because that is a big thing. So, we’ve created a scholarship that will be available for $1,000 for students who are interested in coming into elementary education, staying in the STEM focuses piece. And then we’re also looking at ways then that we can retain them.”
According to Turner, the grant will allow them to reach surrounding populations and recruit students interested in teaching elementary education but also STEM. Steffel said just having a program or having the money for a program does not guarantee that students will come, so this grant helps to frontload the program and get students in the door. Interim Dean of the School of Education Colleen Mulholland said this grant allows the School of Education to go into local high schools and recruit students.
“In fall of 2018 we will start a highly revised almost new elementary education program,” Mulholland said. “That’s what this grant money is for, to recruit. The recruitment is important because we want to make sure that we get not only people that are interested in being teachers but interested in being teachers in this new program.”
Steffel said teaching STEM to elementary age students is all about teaching the content, for example how to observe, experiment and hypothesize. Science is everywhere, according to Turner, and people are born naturally curious, so children are often exploring science without realizing it.
According to Steffel, teachers are very influential to elementary aged students, so it is important that they encourage students to explore STEM and not fall victim to stereotypes.
“Our motto is that we want to create teachers who lead and not leave,” Steffel said. “We want teachers who are going to stay in the classroom and move on to leadership modeling, mentoring, coaching and sponsoring clubs after school on robotics.”
The program will be integrated and involve faculty from across campus. Turner and Steffel said the creation of the program and the program itself has been a collaborative effort.
The School of Education has partnered with the Shaheen College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Applied Behavioral Sciences, numerous community partners and other people, according to Turner.
“This has been a lengthy program in development and it would not be possible without the expertise, the passion and the commitment of faculty in the Shaheen College [of Arts and Sciences] and the School of Ed, as well as multiple community partners,” Mulholland said. “Those years of work have set us in a position to be able to get this grant in the first place.”