Lizeth Ochoa, a secondary education and TESOL major from Elkhart, works with a kindergarten student.

New Teach Elkhart County program offers incentives to attract and retain a broader diversity of local teachers

Goshen College is offering a new program for Elkhart County’s racially and ethnically underrepresented local students who want to be teachers in area schools.

The program, Teach Elkhart County, provides students who are underrepresented in teacher education, benefits for earning a bachelor’s degree in education, as well as incentives for committing to teach in the county following their college graduation. Benefits and incentives include faculty mentoring, peer cohort support, priority job placement and financial bonuses.

“There is a teacher shortage and the current teacher pool is not reflecting the diversity in the schools, so we asked ‘what can we do to help?’” said Kathy Meyer Reimer, professor of education. “Our hope is to increase the diversity of new teachers in our area and make it attractive for them to stay here rather than moving away after they graduate.”

Made possible with help from the Community Foundation of Elkhart County, which awarded a grant of $57,000 to Goshen College Education Department, Goshen College has partnered with Elkhart Community Schools, Goshen Community Schools, Concord Community Schools and Bethany Christian School to “grow your own” teachers.

As an extra incentive to stay in the region, students admitted to the program will receive a “signing bonus” when they graduate college and begin their career in a partner school.

Research shows that students excel academically and socially when they have a teacher who shares their racial/ethnic background. Yet in Elkhart County, only 50 percent of underrepresented students will ever have a teacher “match” in K-12th grades. Teach Elkhart County seeks to reduce this gap by diversifying the next generation of area teachers.

“Our future Teach EC educators will be the kind of highly skilled teachers and role models that underrepresented students in the area need,” said Elisa Zwier, Teach Elkhart County program director: “We encourage area high schoolers to consider making a difference in students’ lives and in their communities by choosing to teach in Elkhart County.”

A 2016 study by The Learning Policy Institute found that Indiana is among the lowest performing states for teacher retention. One factor that increases teacher retention is comprehensive mentoring and induction support in the first years.

Goshen College’s Teacher Education program is a nationally accredited program that has educated effective teachers since 1894. Over the past five years it has graduated 110 teachers, with 65 percent of those graduates remaining to teach in Indiana for at least one semester. In recent years, 99 percent of Goshen College student teachers who completed the education program passed the qualifying test for licensure; and 100 percent of the program’s graduates who sought teaching jobs were employed right after graduation.