2017 News Stories

Helios STEM Middle School Residency Program Featured on ‘WEDU Quest’

Student Teacher working with students in math at Turkey Creek Middle School

College of Education senior Victoria Schepisi works with middle school students in a math class at Turkey Creek Middle School. 

(Tampa, Fla. June 22, 2017) — The Helios STEM Middle School Residency Program, a program in the USF College of Education that aims to produce, support, and enhance the retention of middle grades STEM educators, was featured on WEDU's Quest program this month.

Making use of a 2.7 million dollar award from the Helios Education Foundation, the program supports the implementation of the newly developed STEM middle school teacher education program for STEM teachers. The program is offered to USF students in partnership with the Hillsborough County Public Schools.

"A bunch of us put our heads together and said 'If there's a need for teachers, and there's a great need for STEM educators, why don't we create a program that prepares teachers to be strong STEM middle grades educators?'," said College of Education Associate Professor and Principal Investigator for the program Cheryl Ellerbrock.

The program is open to all undergraduate students who are interested in teaching STEM subjects in the middle school setting, and it prepares them to do so through hands-on field experiences, the support of experienced teachers and mentors and the opportunity to practice teaching skills in a year-long residency.

Victoria Schepisi, a College of Education senior who is completing her residency in a mathematics classroom at Turkey Creek Middle School, said the opportunities the program provides have helped boost her confidence as an educator.

"The biggest takeaway was being able to see what happens from the beginning of the year to all the way to the end of the year, which is going to help me immensely in my first year," she said.

The program prepares teachers for the 21st-century classroom by engaging them in extensive field-based clinical training supported by skilled practitioners. The aim is to produce and enhance the retention of middle school STEM educators who enter the field ready to teach rigorous content standards, to understand the unique learning needs of adolescent learners, and to prepare them to teach a diverse student population, including those in high-needs environments.

"To become a classroom teacher, you need to be with students. You need to understand them well, and you need to watch them grow and mature over time," Ellerbrock said. "Having a year-long residency on top of already having a year's experience in the field during their junior year practicum experiences provides (students) with an array of opportunity to be able to learn students, know them deeply, and understand how to teach them well."

Students in the program are prepared to step into the classroom immediately following graduation, and in 2016, every student who graduated from the program who applied for employment as a teacher in the Hillsborough County Public Schools district.

"What these pre-service teachers have been able to do is they are hirable instantaneously, from the moment they receive their diploma, and I think that's a win-win for all of us," said Larry Plank, Director of K-12 STEM Education at Hillsborough County Public Schools. "It's helping out with the teacher shortage in math and science, particularly in middle school, and we know that we're putting a qualified person in front of the community's children."

To watch the full segment on the Helios STEM Residency Program, view the clip from WEDU Quest in the video below.