State scholarship securing ‘Next Generation’ teachers

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

Northeast Dubois graduate Kortney Quinn knew her whole life she wanted to be a teacher.

With a three-generation tradition of teaching in her family, Quinn spent her summers in either her mother’s or grandmother’s classroom. Her mother, Julie Lechner, teachers at Dubois Middle School, and her grandmother, Joette Quinn, taught for 42 years. Quinn remembers playing with the white boards while her mother or grandmother prepared for their classes. It ignited an interest in education that Quinn carried with her to vocational classes in high school that solidified education as the right career choice for her.

But students like Quinn are few and far between. Teaching jobs don’t attract the number of applicants they used to, an issue U.S. schools have been facing for years.

In 1970, roughly 21 percent of all bachelor’s degrees distributed in the United States went to teachers. By 2015, that number had dwindled to about 5 percent. A September 2016 study by the Learning Policy Institute estimated 60,000 teaching positions went unfilled across the nation during the 2015-16 school year, with projections showing the number of vacancies doubling by this year.

In 2016, Indiana launched a solution: The Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship.

The scholarship awards $30,000 over four years — $7,500 annually — to college freshmen seeking teaching degrees provided they teach in Indiana for five years after graduation. If recipients decide not to enter education or decide not to fulfill the five-year requirement, they must pay back any money they received from the scholarship. Only 200 students per year are awarded the scholarship annually. Of the 510 Hoosiers who applied, four local graduates were awarded the funds: Olivia Brames from Forest Park Junior-Senior High School; Clare Mangin and Quinn from Northeast Dubois High School; and Clair Brinkman from Heritage Hills High School.

Quinn — who is attending University of Evansville and wants to teach elementary school, ideally first grade — still remembers when she learned she’d won the scholarship.

“I remember this overwhelming feeling of gratitude,” she said.

Brames is also thankful for the scholarship.

“It’s a huge help,” she said. “I look at it as enough to cover room and board.”

Like Quinn, Brames is attending the University of Evansville where tuition and housing costs totaled $48,000 this year.

With the average teacher salary in Indiana hovering around $49,000 — less than the total cost for one year of college at many four-year institutions — one has to wonder, why choose a career in education?

For Brames, it just fits with her interests. She loves reading and writing, including editing research papers. When it came time to think about college, she explored careers that required strong English skills. She tried journalism and liked it, but it didn’t feel like a perfect fit.

“I felt like there was something else I could do,” she said.

When Brames did cadet teaching with Melissa Haas’ seventh- and eighth-grade students, however, it felt right. In her second semester of her senior year, Brames decided to become an English teacher.

As for staying in Indiana for at least five years, neither Quinn nor Brames has a set plan for where they’d like to teach after college, so staying in the Hoosier state wasn’t a deterrent. For now, both look forward to their student teaching and seeing how other Indiana schools operate.

“Right now all I know is Forest Park,” Brames said. “It’ll be cool to see some other environments, especially the larger schools, and how those students learn.”




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