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Students at Harshman Middle School, where Jack Hesser is a teacher, work on science projects.

Students at Harshman Middle School, where Jack Hesser is a teacher, work on science projects.

Scott Elliott

New Woodrow Wilson fellows hope to propel students toward science careers

Nicole Morison, 34, spent a decade as a research scientist studying genetics. She started realizing that teaching might be a better career path since her favorite part of it was helping others.

After a stint in the Peace Corps teaching in Ghana, she decided to apply to the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship program.

“I really liked mentoring other students in the lab,” Morison said.

Nearly 50 new teachers, many changing careers after professional success in other fields, were introduced today by Gov. Mike Pence as the newest class of Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows. They will teach science, technology, engineering and math in high-need schools across Indiana.

Pence also welcomed 35 principal trainees who are of MBA Education Leadership fellowship winners. They will study at a specially designed program at the University of Indianapolis, that is also supported by the Princeton, N.J.-based Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation

Their challenge, Pence said, is to raise the expectations for every student to help prepare the next generation of Indiana workers.

“You all are going to play a critical role in the state of Indiana,” Pence said. “STEM professions are among the highest-paying jobs in the nation. You have the ability to change lives. The teachers I remember were not the ones who patted me on the back.”

The Woodrow Wilson teaching fellowship program focuses on preparing teachers to serve for three years in secondary schools with high need for strong science and math teachers. The program launched in Indiana but is now also offered in Georgia, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio.

“I always wanted to teach but I wanted to have a science background first,” said Courtney Orme, 22, a recent graduate of Purdue who studied biochemistry but not education.

The fellowship was a good stepping stone, she said.

The MBA fellowship, which prepares future school leaders by training them in both education and business, launched last year and is currently in Indiana, New Mexico and Wisconsin.

Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows teach in 40 of the state’s 92 counties and in districts including Indianapolis Public Schools, Fort Wayne Schools, Gary Community schools and in Indianapolis charter schools.

“During the past six years, Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows have embodied excellence and success here in Indiana,” said Arthur Levine, Woodrow Wilson Foundation president. “Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellows are 1.9 times more likely to remain teachers in Indiana’s public high-need schools compared to non-fellow teachers. Those fellows will have a real, positive impact on thousands of Indiana students for years to come.”