ASU student named as Wilson Teaching Fellow

MONTGOMERY, AL - The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation has named its second cohort of Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellows and an Alabama State University student is among those named.

Melvin Bridges, who graduates Saturday from ASU with a Bachelor of Science in math and computer science, will receive a $30,000 stipend to enroll in a master's degree program that provides intensive clinical preparation for teaching math and science in the urban and rural high school schools that most need strong teachers.

In return, he will commit to teach for three years in high-need Indiana schools. Bridges, who also is an Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU-UP) — STEM Scholar, a member of the Alpha Chi National Honor Society, and a student ambassador for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, will do his master's degree work in education at the University of Indianapolis.

Bridges is one of 80 Wilson Fellows who will enter innovative teacher preparation programs at four selected Indiana universities — Ball State University, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Purdue University, and the University of Indianapolis — and then teach in the state's high-need urban and rural schools.

The announcement of Fellows comes at the conclusion of a rigorous yearlong application and selection process. The new Wilson Fellows, who begin their master's work this summer, will be ready to enter their own classrooms in fall 2011.

Each Fellow receives a $30,000 stipend to complete a special intensive master's program at one of the four partner universities. Fellows then make a commitment to teach for at least three years in a high-need urban or rural school in the state of Indiana that has committed, along with the partner university, to provide ongoing professional support and opportunities for continued study.

"We are proud that this program continues to attract outstanding new teacher candidates to work with Indiana's students," said Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. "Last year's Fellows are already demonstrating extraordinary skill in the classroom. These new teachers will change thousands of lives — and the Indiana schools that are working with them are changing the face of teacher preparation."

Among this year's Fellows, 96 percent majored in a STEM discipline. Roughly, one-third of them had an undergraduate G.P.A. of 3.5 or better, and nearly a quarter (24 percent) have advanced degrees. Nearly half (45 percent) are changing careers after having been out of college for five years or more; another 36 percent are recent graduates who have rethought their career paths and turned to teaching. Approximately 16 percent are minorities, and roughly one in six (16 percent) comes from out of state.

"Indiana's students are not learning nearly enough math and science to succeed in this world," said Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. "They need to be taught by people with true mastery of the subject matter, and in the Woodrow Wilson Fellows our kids will have America's most knowledgeable math and science teachers sped to the classrooms that need them most."

The Woodrow Wilson Foundation selected Indiana in December 2007 as the first site for its new national fellowship for high school teachers. The program is intended to help overhaul teacher education and encourage exceptionally able teacher candidates to seek long-term careers teaching science, technology, and math (the STEM fields) in high-need classrooms.

The first cohort of Fellows was announced by the Foundation in partnership with the office of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels last year. The 2009 Fellows are now completing their university programs and are ready to become teachers of record. The Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment provided a grant of more than $10.1 million to support the program. The state also has provided $3 million to extend the program.

"Lilly Endowment is pleased that the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation selected Indiana as the first site of this promising new approach to encourage talented individuals to become teachers," said Sara B. Cobb, Endowment vice president for education. "Early indications are that this program is producing teachers who are enthusiastic and creative — and who have expertise in their STEM disciplines.  Indiana students in high-need urban and rural schools will be the beneficiaries of this knowledge."

The Fellows selected include current and recent college graduates, career changers, stay-at-home parents returning to the work force, and retirees.

(See brief bios of Fellows at for follow-up stories.)

All finalists were screened by a group of Indiana-based selectors, who observed sample teaching and conducted personal interviews with the candidates, as well as reviewing applications and writing samples. The selectors who led this rigorous process were:

-- Carol Chen, former head of the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc. and a    28-year veteran of high school chemistry and physical science teaching;

-- Don Meissner, a 33-year veteran of teaching biology who has mentored teacher candidates and conducted education research; and

-- Beth Marchant, a career-changing engineer who taught high school physics and now staffs QuarkNet, an online physics resource for teachers and students nationwide.

"These are truly stellar teacher candidates who will make a real difference in students' lives," said Constance K. Bond, vice president for Teaching Fellowships at the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and former coordinator of education policy at Teachers College, Columbia University. "I am enormously impressed with the quality of Indiana's candidates for this Fellowship, and with their genuine enthusiasm for bringing science and math to life in Indiana classrooms."

INFORMATION SOURCE: Alabama State University