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IUP Receives Funding to Address Teacher Shortage, Diversity in Teacher Workforce

Indiana University of Pennsylvania  (IUP) has been selected to receive $72,049 from the Pennsylvania Department of Education through its Teacher Prep 2 Practice grant program.

IUP’s funding will be used to design a culturally relevant teaching academy to diversify the teacher workforce and address the national teacher shortage. This work will take place in partnership with the Gateway School District in Monroeville, Allegheny County.

“This is a very important initiative for IUP and for the commonwealth, and we are honored to have been chosen for this funding,” Interim Dean of the IUP College of Education and Communications Sue Rieg says.

“This project addresses the state drop in enrollment in educator programs overall, and the need for support for new teachers, many of whom did not have adequate field experience due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to be successful and remain in the teaching profession.

“It also focuses on strategies to develop a more diverse teaching workforce, and cultural competencies for all educators,” she says. “This funding complements a number of already ongoing initiatives and gives us an opportunity to work collaboratively with school district leaders and teachers, many of whom are IUP alumni, in the Gateway School District.”

“This plan to build a teaching academy and to further develop a mutually beneficial partnership with Gateway School District will have a number of positive outcomes for Pennsylvania education,” Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs and Educator Preparation in IUP’s College of Education and Communications Nicole Dunmire says. Dunmire is the lead author of the proposal.

“It will strengthen the partnership between IUP and the school district, it will address both state and national teacher shortages by building a pipeline to teaching in an effort to increase diversity in the profession with strategies from the Pennsylvania Educator Diversity Consortium’s toolkit, prepare culturally relevant teacher candidates and practicing educators by utilizing the Culturally Relevant and Sustaining Education competencies, and address the need for more intentional connections across the stages of clinical experiences, thus better preparing our candidates for the classroom,” Dunmire says.

Planning will begin immediately for launch of the teacher academy in fall 2023. Part of this initial work includes developing a cohort of secondary students committed to entering the teaching academy, and a cohort of IUP teacher candidates who are in pre- or current student-teaching experiences who will work with students in the teaching academy. In addition, a new cohort of IUP teacher candidates will be recruited in fall 2023 to begin their first field experience with the Gateway School District.

Students who have completed their pre-student teaching in the Gateway School District will be encouraged to enroll in IUP’s master’s in education program in literacy/reading specialist certification program and devote an extra year (with a financial stipend) to serve as literacy graduate assistants in the Gateway district. Students completing this degree will have the opportunity to earn a literacy specialist/coaching certification. IUP faculty member Julie Ankrum, who is the co-principal investigator for project, is leading the reading specialist-literacy program and creating the literacy coach pathway. Ankrum is director of IUP’s Bill and Judy Scheeren Literacy Center and coordinator of IUP’s literacy master’s program and reading specialist program.

“As PDE’s Culturally-Relevant and Sustaining Education competencies are finalized, they will be integrated into IUP’s teacher preparation program, to ensure that all teacher candidates leave IUP as culturally responsive educators,” Dunmire says.

One of the teaching academy initiatives includes establishing an Educators Rising Club at Gateway High School, supported by IUP, and IUP students placed in the Gateway district will be mentors for Gateway students in district secondary schools. The initiative also intends on creating more dual enrollment opportunities for Gateway students.

Pre-teachers from IUP who choose to be placed in the Gateway School District for their pre-student teaching or student teaching experience will have a number of opportunities to work closely with Gateway mentors involved in the teaching academy, and after graduation and teaching certification these IUP graduates will have the opportunity to serve as literacy support reading specialists while earning a master’s degree in literacy at IUP.