The Indiana Department of Education has made a new grant available that sets up high schools and colleges as partners in the recruitment of a new generation of teachers. The APR grant is acronymically named for its core purpose: to attract, prepare, and retain high school students who have an interest in pursuing careers in education.
IU South Bend secured $339,288 in APR funding, and will partner with the South Bend Community School Corporation, Elkhart Community Schools, John Glenn School Corporation, Bremen Public Schools, Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation, the Elkhart Area Career Center and the South Bend Career and Success Academy.
For two weeks in June, IU South Bend will host the students for a mix of summer courses and activities. They will go home on the weekends, but on the weekdays they will stay at the River Crossing housing facilities. The experience will be both immersive and ongoing.
“This isn’t the kind of program where they come and hang out with us for a couple of weeks and then we send them back to their schools and say, ‘See you next year,’” said Dr. Hope Smith Davis, dean of the School of Education.
The students’ coursework aligns with the Advanced College Project, which provides high school students the opportunity to earn college credits by taking IUSB classes in a dual enrollment partnership, simultaneously fulfilling high school graduation requirements while kick-starting their collegiate careers. The grant provides money to hire a liaison at each of the partner schools helping the participants – dubbed “Titan Cadets” – through the process.
“The liaisons will be making sure the Titan Cadets are registered for the right classes and supervising them in their placements during the academic year,” Davis said.
The on-campus summer sessions will be preceded by an event in early Spring, welcoming students and their families and giving them an overview about what to expect from the program. Later in the Spring semester, IUSB professors will visit the schools to spread the word and work with the high school teachers in identifying and recruiting additional suitable students.
Over the two summers, they take four teacher education courses. In addition to six hours of classwork per day, there will be movie nights, a bus tour with a civil rights theme, panel discussions, and advisory assistance in matters such as the proper way to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
APR grants are weighted in favor of municipalities with higher numbers of students from underrepresented populations who can enter the pathway to the education profession through the partnership, with the goal of strengthening, expanding, and diversifying the educator pipeline.
“Decades of research has shown that the more diverse teaching styles and diverse cultural backgrounds that a child encounters, the more successful they can become,” Davis said. “If they’ve encountered a diverse group of teachers, they’re better prepared for life.”
Davis was reminded recently of how critical it is to steer young people into pedagogical pursuits when she casually chatted with a group of high schoolers touring IUSB’s campus. When she asked them if they were considering becoming teachers, one student responded with a vociferous “No!” The most favorable reply was one hand shyly lifted halfway up.
Davis maintains that a program like the Titan Cadets will provide opportunities and support for individuals who feel called to the profession. It will reinforce their academic and career goals, and show them how rewarding and valuable being a teacher can be.
“One of the most important aspects of this grant is simply to promote the profession,” Davis said. “We want to let young people know how wonderful it is to be a teacher.”