KOKOMO, Ind. — Facing a growing teacher shortage, north central Indiana school districts are partnering with Indiana University Kokomo to prepare their own future educators.
The Tomorrow’s Teachers program begins this fall semester at Kokomo, Logansport, Western and Caston high schools, with IU Kokomo School of Education faculty teaching dual credit classes on site.
“Tomorrow’s Teachers gives us an opportunity to help students who have an interest in this profession to confirm it is their desired career path before college,” said School of Education Dean Leah Nellis. “We will give them both hands-on experiences and coursework in their own school, so if it is what they want to do, they will have a good start before graduating from high school.”
The program meets a critical need, as an October 2017 survey of Indiana school superintendents found 94 percent of 141 school districts have a teacher shortage, up 2 percent from 2016.
Participating districts hope to address their own shortages by growing their own future teachers with this program.
“They hope to build relationships with these potential educators, and perhaps have incentives for them to come back to work as teachers in the future,” she said. “We think it will have an impact on addressing the shortages in the districts that participate.”
Michele Starkey, superintendent for Logansport School Corporation, has noticed fewer applicants for open teaching jobs. She specifically hopes to develop future teachers for its new dual language immersion program, which began last year with a class of kindergarteners and expanded to first grade this year.
“We have a large population of Spanish speaking students who graduate from Logansport High School and go to college,” she said. “Some of them may be interested in teaching, and this would give them a leg up with some college credits and experience. We’d like to bring them back and make them part of our dual language program.”
Kokomo High School Principal Angela Blessing also appreciates the chance for students to earn college credit while experiencing the profession, and for the opportunity to work with students who may apply for jobs at the school later.
“By using a combination of IU Kokomo professors and our faculty, district officials will be able to develop strong relationships with potential teaching candidates, while creating an atmosphere of support for these students,” she said. “These Kokomo students will experience teaching much earlier than traditional college students. They can develop their strengths as future teachers, while we can work closely with them to provide support and resources when they are in the classroom.”
Nellis added that the program also helps with teacher retention, which is also a growing issue statewide. Indiana’s average retention rate for educators is 82 percent, according to a national study by the Learning Policy Institute.
“Research suggests that teachers who go through this kind of experience, and then complete a teacher preparation program will have more confidence in their professional abilities to be an effective teacher,” said Nellis. “The more confident we feel about our ability to do our job, the more likely we are to stay with it. We hope to impact incoming teachers by preparing them to succeed.”
This program differs from other dual credit programs, because IU Kokomo faculty will teach the classes, rather than high school teachers, Nellis said, offering a connection to the campus.
She anticipates in addition to classes, the high school students will be able to observe and teach mini lessons to younger students, providing real teaching experience. They’ll also come to campus for activities with IU Kokomo students, who can serve as mentors for the potential future teachers.
In addition to the Logansport Community Schools, leaders from Kokomo, Western, and Caston schools assisted in curriculum development for the program. Additional school districts will be invited to participate in future years.
“I think they are excited about the opportunity this brings to their students,” said Nellis. “Teachers spend a lot of time talking about professions other than their own. This allows them to support and mentor their own students into their profession.”
The School of Education received a grant from the IU Kokomo Applied and Community Research Center to develop Tomorrow’s Teachers. Christina Romoro-Ivanova, acting assistant professor of education, has assisted with development of the program and is a co-principal investigator on the ACRC grant.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.