Jessica Hoffman is changing the way students look at science.

“I know not all students are interested in science,” says Jessica Hoffman, MA ’11, secondary education 2011. “I hope to use their other interests in order for them to have success in my biology classroom. If students are interested in art, I will have assignments that focus on drawing or visual display so they are able to connect those interests. I am going to use hands-on activities and give students real-life experiences in order to help them understand why biological sciences are so important.”

Hoffman is a Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellow, who is teaching freshman biology and life sciences at Highland Junior High School in Anderson, Indiana, a school partner with the fellows program.

“My students will be actively engaged in science activities as much as possible and will be using interactive classroom tools. By using current, relevant information pertinent to today’s society and environmental concerns, I can help students gain the knowledge needed to be productive, informed citizens.”

Over the summer, Hoffman was one of 20 students who began new career paths on the Ball State University campus as part of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Indiana Teaching Fellows (WWF) program. The competitive program is designed to recruit and select highly qualified applicants, most of whom have already experienced success in the workplace in a STEM field of endeavor (science, technology, engineering, and math) and are looking for a new career in education in Indiana classrooms.

Out of 800 total applicants, 20 were selected by Ball State, one of four universities to pilot the program. The fellows receive a $30,000 stipend to complete a master’s program in science or math education. Participants receive mentoring from experienced teachers as they learn best practices in science and mathematics teaching, and apply this knowledge in high school classrooms.

Fellow Shannon Anderson brings her work with marine animals into the Anderson High School zoology and biology classrooms.

“I am working on bringing in some of my life experiences working as a marine mammal intern into the classes as an example of where you can go with biology,” says Anderson, MA ’11, secondary education 2011. “I also bring in fun and interesting facts for my zoology class to show them different ways that zoology can be found in the rest of the world. I have also been trying to integrate some new technology in with my biology students.”

By attracting professionals who have already worked in the industry, Ball State University is providing students with teachers who can better prepare them for their futures. At the same time, the WWF Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation through Ball State is providing would-be teachers with an opportunity to realize their dreams for a new future for themselves and for young people in their charge.

Fellows also benefit from the individual attention of Ball State faculty teaching Ball State courses in residence at high schools and from their partner in-school teachers. Mentoring continues after the fellows graduate from the program and go on to spend at least three years teaching in high-need urban or rural schools.

This investment will greatly benefit math and science education in Indiana for years to come. This initiative is designed to help revamp how science and mathematics have been taught in the past, to give students instruction from experienced scientists, and to encourage and nurture aspiring scientists and mathematicians, according to project directors Laurie Mullen, Associate Dean for Teacher Education in Teachers College, and Susan Johnson, Associate Dean in the College of Sciences and Humanities.

The fellows initiative is funded by a Lilly Endowment grant of more than $10.1 million. The state is providing an additional $3 million to extend the program.