As soon as Ball State became an I-STEM Resource Network regional coordinating center in 2006, the state began tapping into the teacher education expertise on Ball State’s campus.
I-STEM’s goal is to ensure that teachers already in the field receive the most current training in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. The enterprise is a research network of numerous public and private institutions of higher education, K-12 schools, businesses, and government in Indiana, the I in I-STEM.
Since many of the programs and ideas I-STEM aims to initiate were already successfully used in Ball State’s teacher education program, the university serves as a model for many of the programs now used by other I-STEM institutions.
The middle school math initiative was the first in which Ball State participated. Sheryl Stump, chair of the Department of Mathematical Sciences, answered the call to develop courses for middle school math teachers. The courses she laid out will help improve teachers’ understanding of math concepts so they can better teach their students. The math courses may also benefit I-STEM teachers by allowing them to easily transition into a master’s degree program.
“It’s a great opportunity to share ideas with other people across the state,” says Judy Miller, director of the Office of Teacher Education Services. “It creates an extraordinarily rich resource to the great benefit of teachers and students in Indiana.”
I-STEM, based at Purdue University, has received grants from the Lilly Endowment and Eli Lilly and Company Foundation. I-STEM allocated $97,000 from a $3.4 million Lilly Endowment grant for the middle school math initiative.
“I-STEM made a major commitment to middle school math professional development,” Miller says, “and we are gratified to be a major component of that important initiative.”
A Catalyst to Help Teachers Improve
Another valuable resource for teaching professionals is the Indiana Education Project (IEP). Now in its 13th year, IEP, a Teachers College initiative supported by the Indiana Department of Education is dedicated to helping teachers raise achievement and increase professional accountability.
“We are the catalyst in supplying professional development options that teachers might use in their endeavors,” says Daena Richmond, IEP codirector.
Since 1998, IEP has been tracking the academic and professional progress of students with disabilities. Students are surveyed annually to see if they obtained full-time employment or advanced to postsecondary education. Results indicate that there has been a steady increase in both areas, but there is still much room for improvement.
IEP also helps teachers by tapping into new technology through the creation of learning modules, videos, and podcasts. Many of these programs help teachers who have students with disabilities, offering tips to prepare students as they transition from high school to college and keeping them up-to-date on education laws and regulations.
“We have had various experts throughout the country who have contributed online training modules in various areas of student learning,” Richmond says. “Because the modules are designed for the busy professional, teachers can tap into these training activities at any time that fits their schedule. Many of the modules have also been used by university instructors, not only here at Ball State, but at other institutions of higher learning in Indiana. Feedback from users continues to be very positive.”
Richmond also oversees grants for Burris Laboratory School and the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Humanities. Grant money is used to help fund professional development, purchase software, and add services to educate students with disabilities.
Richmond, who holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from Ball State, is a self-described Ball State “lifer.”
“What I love about Ball State is having supportive colleagues and participating in an energetic and resourceful environment,” she says.