Elkhart Community Schools also partner with the School of Education on an educational leadership pipeline program, led by Acting Assistant Dean Tony Randles, for teachers who want to become a principal or an administrator.
“Courses are paid for by the district. It’s a huge benefit and helps retain people,” said Higginson.
Another Elkhart program addresses the shortage of English as a New Language (ENL) teachers, pairing new teachers with a more experienced teacher. They co-teach while taking courses at IU South Bend toward an ENL licensure. They’re learning, planning, and executing lessons together, so the new teacher benefits from more mentorship.
These programs can be a game changer, according to Jason Zook, BS ’00, MS ’02, director of talent management at South Bend Community School Corporation. He notes that building these pipelines sets teachers up for a solid foundation to avoid burnout. More than 40 percent of new teachers leave the profession before their five-year anniversary.
Zook works with IU South Bend on the Preparing Leaders in Urban Schools Grant, or PLUS, a grant on which Dean Davis and faculty collaborated with the corporation. IU South Bend students in this federal teacher quality preparedness program receive funding to complete a Master of Arts in Teaching in return for a three-year commitment to teaching in the corporation.
“The students work with a co-teacher after earning their bachelor’s and spend a year with a highly trained experienced teacher,” Zook describes. “They receive professional development, attend conferences, and get experience and understanding of policies and procedures.”
Kennedy Ward BS ‘20, MS '21 was drawn to the program because of the additional year of working with a teacher. The English and journalism teacher at Riley High School also appreciated the free tuition.
“If you want your master’s, it’s a no brainer,” she said. “You get to learn from an established teacher while you’re taking classes. It’s invaluable.”
“The program cohort itself created with the grant is really nice, with other people going through the same thing. The community aspect is very valuable; you have that support with each other.”
Once John Ward BS ’20, MS '21 got his own classroom, he said it felt nice to be on his own but appreciated the level of preparation the PLUS mentorship afforded him, especially as some of the miscellaneous things, like using district software, called PowerSchool, could be overwhelming.
“This type of program will lower the burn-out rate, bringing more teachers into the corporation,” he said.
As of this fall, another teacher pipeline solution will soon be launched at IU South Bend. The School of Education was awarded a nearly $340,000 grant to attract, prepare, and retain teachers. The grant will be used to work with seven partner school corporations (South Bend Community School Corporation, Elkhart Community Schools, John Glenn School Corporation, Penn Harris Madison School Corporation, the Elkhart Area Career Center, Bremen Public Schools, and the Success Academy in South Bend) to offer a mixture of advanced college placement and on-campus summer course offerings for high school students interested in becoming teachers.
Are these programs making a difference? "Yes," said Dean Davis.
“But there’s more room to make an even bigger difference,” she said.
The programs are benefitting the in-service teachers as well as the preservice and new teachers because they are so integrated across various levels. The mentors receive support and the satisfaction of helping others to learn and grow.
“This is part of the larger conversation about the value of teaching and why the profession is incredibly important,” said Davis.