Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

IU Program Makes Real World Experience Valuable In The Classroom

The Transition to Teaching program at IU spends a year teaching career changers how to be successful teachers

jpellgen (flickr)

The Transition to Teaching program at IU spends a year teaching career changers how to be successful teachers

Those who can’t do, teach.

It’s a phrase that seems to insult teachers and downplay the importance of the profession. But after the state board of education lessened requirements to get a certain type of teaching license last month, those who leave the world of “doing” to enter the world of “teaching” is getting a closer look from the education community.

The controversy around REPA III stems from the amount of experience a career specialist brings to the classroom. Opponents argue there is too much emphasis on content knowledge and not enough emphasis on effective teaching strategies.

[audio href=”″ title=”How One Program Helps Professionals Transition To The Classroom”] When the State Board of Education passed REPA III last month, opponents criticized the measure because they say it puts inexperienced people in the classroom. StateImpact Indiana’s Claire McInerny reports on one program that helps career changers become teachers. [/audio]

But the Transition to Teaching program at Indiana University strives to find a middle ground between a four-year bachelor’s degree in education and starting someone in a classroom with no pedagogy training.

Those who complete the Transition to Teaching program don’t leave with a degree of any kind, but spend one year learning teaching theories, taking courses related to their content area and completing student teaching. 

Those Trying To Teach

The program starts at the beginning of June, and on the first day of classes Ben Edmonds, Director of the Secondary Transition to Teaching Program, asks his students to introduce themselves and share what they did professionally before enrolling in the program.

One student spent time in Antarctica doing research and helped put together technology to send to the moon before losing funding. He plans to teach high school physics after finishing the teacher training program.

Another is finishing her master’s in French and enrolled in this program so she can teach it in high schools.

And a few students, like Sarah Moore, graduated in the last few year’s with their bachelor’s but never knew what they wanted to do.

“I went into school thinking I wanted to be a doctor,” said Moore, who graduated from IU in 2012 with a biology degree. “But over time realized that I just had a passion for helping people, and not necessarily with medical problems.”

With medicine out of the picture she got a job at a pharmaceutical company testing new drugs, but she hated the isolation. After some soul searching and creating a few pros and cons lists, she realized teaching science was right for her.

“If I recall my 18-year-old self or my 16-year-old self correctly, I gave more attention to people. I thought knew what they were talking about,” Moore said. “And it was like ‘oh you’re just a teacher’ but now it’s like ‘oh you were a scientist and now you’re a teacher’ there is a little bit of a difference, so I think that that should help.”

The Attractiveness Of ‘Real World’ Experience

Edmonds says the practical experience Transition to Teaching graduates have makes them qualified educators and attractive to employers.

“They’ve been pretty successful in their educational career, and they seem ready to take on the role of a teacher,” Edmonds said. “I think the second thing is the motivation that comes when you have someone that already has their degree. There just seems to be a real focus for the students that come to us, and I think that makes a big difference.”

Edmonds is right, 94 percent of former Transition to Teaching students looking for jobs found them. Bill Jensen, Bartholomew County School Corporation’s superintendent, is one of those employers that finds the experience level of Transition to Teaching graduates attractive in a candidate.

[pullquote]I’m excited about sharing my love of science….I  want to be able to share that fascination.”[/pullquote] “Well anytime you make lessons more authentic, the students are able to learn better, because they are able to connect that material with real life experiences,” Jensen said. “So anytime you do that, learning improves. They ‘why’ of learning, the mean of learning the relationship of application that they’ll actually do with the skills and concepts just make learning much more meaningful and lasting.”

Moore is just learning to create these meaningful and lasting lessons employers like Jensen values, but her passion for the work is already there. Despite worries about relating to teenagers, and finding a job, she’s says teaching science will let her express her love of science in a way she never could at her pharmaceutical job.

“I’m excited about sharing my love of science,” she said. “I stuck with biology after knowing I didn’t want to be a doctor just because I loved it and I’m fascinated, and I want to be able to share that fascination.”



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