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Friday, July 16, 2010

Two 2010 graduates named Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellows

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Edwin Ramos (courtesy of Autumn Smith Photography)and Sarah Braun
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Two recent graduates of the University of Southern Indiana have been selected to complete an innovative teacher preparation program at the master's level and then teach in Indiana's high-need urban and rural schools.

Sarah Braun, biology major, and Edwin Ramos, mathematics major, are among 80 new Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellows. Each will receive a $30,000 stipend for the master's-degree program providing intensive clinical preparation for teaching. Fellows commit to teaching for three years in high-need secondary schools in urban or rural communities at the completion of the master's program.

Both Braun and Ramos graduated from USI in the spring. Braun will complete the master's program at the University of Indianapolis. She will prepare to teach in urban schools. Ramos will earn a master's degree in education at Purdue University, where the program focuses on preparing candidates for teaching in rural schools.

The fellows, chosen from more than 500 applicants, began their course work this summer and will enter their own classrooms as teachers in fall 2011. They will have ongoing professional support and opportunities for continued study.

Sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, the program is intended to help transform teacher education and encourage exceptionally able candidates to seek teaching careers in STEM fields. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, education, and mathematics.

The rigorous application process for the fellowship involved personal interviews, sample teaching, and a review of writing samples. This year's group of fellows includes career changers, stay-at-home parents returning to the workforce, and retirees in addition to recent college graduates.

"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."

Braun's career goals evolved from research to teaching during her experience at USI. She completed an internship in the toxicology lab at Bristol Myers-Squibb in Evansville during the summer before her senior year.

"It was a good experience. I enjoyed it," Braun said, "but I realized that I like being involved with people and promoting science even more than doing science."

Braun assisted Dr. Jeanne K. Barnett, USI professor of biology, in teaching a laboratory experience for a course in the principles of biology. She also took an introductory course in education that included field observations. Both experiences influenced her shift to an education focus.

"The big appeal to me in teaching is being able to make a difference in the students' lives. I want to share my passion for biology and develop excitement in students who would not have developed a passion for biology without the right teacher. Even if students don't continue in biology, I want them to appreciate it for what it is," she said.

For her sample teaching during the fellowship interview, Braun made a model of a lung using everyday materials, including a two-liter plastic bottle, balloons, and plastic wrap. The teaching tool was an inexpensive replica of a more sophisticated one used in USI labs.

Braun was the Joseph E. and Marie N. O'Daniel Endowed Presidential Scholar at USI. She received the Academic Achievement Award for cellular/molecular biology during the Honors Convocation for the Pott College of Science and Engineering in 2008. She was a supplemental instructor for human anatomy and physiology classes. Supplemental instruction is a service provided by the Office of Academic Skills. Braun also was a student ambassador and a member of the Honors Program, Biology Club, and Communion and Liberation-University. She is from Newburgh, Indiana.

Braun and her sister, Amanda Horan, applied for the fellowship program after seeing information about it posted at USI. A Purdue graduate, Horan has been a chemical engineer at Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis for five years. She also was selected as a 2010 fellow and will complete her teacher preparation at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Ramos' degree in mathematics from USI is his second undergraduate degree. He completed a classics major at Northwestern University in 2002. In 2003-04, he served as a graduate coordinator at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for the America Reads * America Counts program. In that position, he supervised 45 undergraduate students who tutored middle school students in math, reading, and social studies. Ramos has worked as a substitute teacher for the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation, Diocese of Evansville, and the Metropolitan School District of Mount Vernon.

"What I like about teaching," Ramos said, "is giving people the power to use their minds. It's not so much what they think but how they think. I want them to be able to keep multiple ideas in their heads. I want to help them improve their intellect and translate it into their job setting."



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