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Future educators gain head start with Tomorrow’s Teachers

Feb 6, 2020
Five women stand in a row
Five women stand in a row

KOKOMO, Ind. – When Marlie Chaffee enrolled as an Indiana University Kokomo freshman, not only had she already earned college credit – she had made an informed decision that teaching was her future career.

Chaffee completed two School of Education classes during her senior year at Western High School, as part of the inaugural class of IU Kokomo’s Tomorrow’s Teachers: Growing Our Own. 

“With this program, I definitely knew I was in the right place,” she said.

The program, created in cooperation with leaders from Caston, Kokomo, Logansport, and Western school corporations, began during the 2018-2019 school year. The first cohort completed two classes taught by Christina Romero-Ivanova, assistant professor of education, and also volunteered and assisted in classrooms in their district.

They also attended on-campus events, assisting with activities at the Walk into My Future for kindergartners, and participating in Education Student Advisory Council (EdSAC) meetings, which provided an opportunity to make friends with other students.

Six students who completed the first-year program are now freshmen in education, while another two enrolled in other majors.

Dean Leah Nellis said the program provides an avenue for high school students interested in becoming teachers to get an early start on their college experience.

“Tomorrows Teachers combines hands-on experience in school classrooms with college coursework, helping high school students gain a deeper understanding of the profession, and whether it is a good fit for their interest and passion,” she said.

Classes are offered during the junior and senior year of high school, with the opportunity to earn up to 12 college credits in education, while connecting with School of Education faculty, staff, and students.

“These relationships and first-hand experience build students’ confidence as college students,” she said. “We are pleased to offer this program in collaboration with our partner school districts, to help with shortages in the teaching profession.” 

Zara Hooper, who plans to be an elementary teacher, noted that with her Tomorrow’s Teachers classes and other AP credits earned at Kokomo High School, she will be able to earn her degree in three years instead of four. She also learned skills that prepared her to succeed academically, including how to use the Canvas learning management system, and that it is important to read the professor’s syllabus.

“It helped me make a smooth transition from high school to college,” she said. “Because I had been to campus for events, I knew my way around, and where to find my classes. It gave me good insight into what it was to be an education major.”

For Adilene Rodriguez Rodriguez, the program gave her a support system, with her IU Kokomo instructor, the Logansport High School teacher who coordinated the program at her school, and the friends she made at her own school and the others participating.

“It’s like we’re all part of a team,” she said.

The Tomorrow’s Teachers program meets a critical need, as an October 2017 survey of Indiana superintendents found 94 percent of 141 school districts have a teacher shortage, up 2 percent from 2016. The participating districts hope to address their own shortages by growing their own future teachers with the program.

The School of Education received a grant from the IU Kokomo Applied and Community Research Center to develop the program.

Nellis noted that opportunities are available to expand the Tomorrow’s Teachers program to additional high schools. For more information, contact her at 765-455-9287 or

Indiana University Kokomo celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana’s choice for higher education.

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