By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–STEM education has a bright future in Indiana.
That is the inescapable impression from the Growing Tomorrow’s STEM Educators Today (GTST) Virtual Fall Teacher Institute convened by IU Southeast’s School of Education.
The event, co-chaired by Drs. Alan Zollman, Sumreen Asim and Lisa Hoffman, all of the School of Education, recognized the ongoing achievements of 11 current program participants, and welcomed a new cohort of 11 more, while featuring insights from program alumni who are currently putting their GTST experience to good use across the region.
The School of Education created GTST in response to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education (ICHE) mandate requiring dual-credit high school teachers to have substantial advanced coursework in their subject area.
Launched in 2017 and funded through grants from ICHE, the GTST Project pays tuition and fees for up to 18 graduate credit hours to highly qualified pre-service and in-service STEM teachers in Indiana school corporations who enroll in one of three IU Southeast programs for STEM teachers.
At the same time, the Advance to Teaching (A2T) program has recruited highly-qualified, pre-service individuals from the southeastern Indiana area, and provided them with support necessary to become licensed secondary STEM teachers.
The program also offers professional development workshops and seminars for K-12 teachers that have direct relevance to all STEM teachers’ classrooms, and provides mentoring from education, natural science and industry personnel to support candidates to the end of their training.
At the Fall Institute, participants, instructors and guests gathered together to share updates, progress and next steps.
Keynote speaker was education coach, author and advocate Jorge Valenzuela, adjunct professor at Old Dominion University, whose work focuses on improving teacher preparation in project-based learning, computational thinking and computer science integration, STEM education, and equity-based restorative practices.
Valenzuela recounted his own teaching journey, emphasizing the importance of emotional intelligence in overcoming impediments to learning.
“Everyone has an origin story,” Valenzuela said.
Understanding, validating and leveraging that story is key to unlocking learning potential, according to Valenzuela.
In this vibrant and interactive session, Valenzuela and the participants also explored the importance of mastering content.
Program alumni Kelly Book, Tasman Wrock and Brooke Stewart contributed shared tech tools and practices that have helped them in their current classrooms.
Dr. Eugene Johnson, assistant commissioner for program development and administration for ICHE, was among the guests at the event.
“The work of GTST has had a direct, positive impact since its outset, and has laid a foundation for current and future positive benefits for students taking STEM coursework across the state and in particular, southeastern Indiana,” Johnson said.
He emphasized the importance of events and messaging that will aid recruitment and maintain continued funding of the state grant that supports the program.
“This event shows the IUS School of Education’s commitment to developing a pipeline of new STEM teaching talent for classrooms across our state, with a particular emphasis on those school districts in the southeastern part of the state,” Johnson said. “It also shows the School of Education’s commitment to ensuring that current Indiana STEM teachers are qualified to teach their students college-level coursework while in high school, helping those students receive college credits at a low cost, and to complete college and begin their careers sooner.”