INDIANAPOLIS – A national non-profit aimed at "empowering teachers to lead improvements in policy and practice" has inducted 20 "demonstrably-effective teachers" as new Policy Fellows, including one from Michigan City High School.
Teach Plus "continues its work in Indiana with 20 newly-inducted Policy Fellows who will take part in a course of study in policy and advocacy specially-designed to help them develop the skills to advocate for changes for Hoosier students," according to Rachel Hathaway, Indiana interim executive director
Last year, Policy Fellows focused on teacher retention, social-emotional learning and new recommendations to improve teacher preparation, while addressing the teacher shortage statewide, she said.
"The new cohort will continue the progress made on building career ladders for teacher leaders in Indiana and will continue to inform the work happening around the teacher residency pilot grant program that was advocated for by the 2018-19 cohort, Hathaway said.
"The new Policy Fellows also hope to continue making education funding transparent for each district while pushing more dollars to the classroom and teacher pay."
The group will include Alexander Uryga of Michigan City.
"Developing a higher level of understanding through rigorous instruction and work, and engaging students in academic content are the touchstones of an excellent teacher," he said.
A 2011 MCHS graduate, Uryga returned to his alma mater to teach social studies for the 2018-19 school year. He also serves as faculty advisor to the first Rho Kappa National Social Studies Honor Society chapter established in Indiana, which he helped found. He calls it “a great opportunity for the students to be more involved in social studies.”
He is a James Madison Fellow with the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation and a Barringer Research Fellow for Teachers of American History with the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.
He previously served as an AmeriCorps Member for the Youth Development program at the University of Notre Dame-sponsored Robinson Community Learning Center; was named one of Michiana's "Forty Under 40"; and was honored as a Distinguished Teacher at MCHS.
A graduate of Valparaiso University as a Christ College scholar with a BA in political science and history, Uryga earned an EdM in teaching and curriculum from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.
His goal in teaching? "I want to help them succeed and make their dreams come true,” he said in an interview prior to his first year teaching.
"This year's cohort of Fellows is a group of motivated, passionate educators," Hathaway said. "They represent varied backgrounds, geographic locations, and experiences, and they’re all committed to ensuring equitable opportunities for students across the state.
“We look forward to working with this group of Fellows on various issues including teacher preparation and teacher retention, in our continued effort to improve the overall teaching profession in Indiana."
LaShonda Huff, eighth grade language arts teacher at Pierce Middle School in Merrillville, is also among that group.
“I’m excited about learning how to influence educational policy," she said. "As a teacher leader, I want to use my voice and empower others to use theirs in educational decision making.”
The new Fellows hail from large urban areas like Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Terre Haute and Evansville; as well as smaller cities such as Michigan City, Bloomington and Merrillville, Hathaway said.
"Their teaching experience ranges from two years to 26 years and they teach across all subjects and grade levels. The teachers represent a variety of preparation institutions such as traditional undergraduate, master’s programs, and alternative prep programs and about half of the teachers are currently involved in the teachers' union.
"They have demonstrated their effectiveness through the rigorous Fellowship application process and many have recognitions such as finalist for 2019 Indiana Teacher of the Year, a district teacher of the year, and a Golden Apple Award winner."
The 2019-20 Texas Policy Fellows also include Jeanie Mitchell of Penn High School.