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2 alumni will make a difference in Indiana schools

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Two IE alumni have been selected as 2016 Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellows. As fellows, Stephanie Biery (BSIE 1993) and Betsy Lange (BSIE 1985) will begin master’s degree programs this year to become STEM teachers in high-need Indiana secondary schools.

Stephanie Biery

Biery, of Sugar Grove, IL, worked in supply chain engineering for 18 years at Kraft Foods. She will attend Purdue University this fall for a year of classroom instruction in preparation to teach secondary math. She wants to obtain a teaching license and teach STEM classes, specifically math, in rural Indiana schools.

"I will be able to bring my experience from the business world into the classroom to demonstrate why math is important and how it can be used in the real world to make a difference in students' lives," says Biery.

She heard about the fellowship program through Purdue’s STEM Goes Rural program, which helps train science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers to staff rural Indiana secondary schools. Indiana is the first state in the nation to pioneer such a program, and Purdue is the first university to focus its program on training teachers for rural schools. The program is taught by a collaborative, cross-disciplinary team of educators from the Purdue Colleges of Engineering, Education, and Science, and the Purdue Polytechnic Institute.

"The STEM Goes Rural program, with Purdue and Woodrow Wilson [Teaching Fellow]'s support, is a great program to get new teachers with STEM backgrounds into low-income or rural areas to help our children learn needed skills to better our world," Biery explains.

Betsy LangeLange, of Carmel, IN, went on from Purdue to earn an MBA from the University of Rochester in 1991, and worked at Eastman Kodak for 10 years in engineering and engineering management roles. She started master’s classes at Ball State University in May.

"After relocating to the Indy area with Kodak, I became involved in the Carmel Schools as a volunteer when my kids were in elementary school," says Lange. "That led to a position as an Instructional Assistant at Carmel Clay Schools where I had the opportunity to work with dedicated educators and administrators…who were very encouraging of my fellowship pursuit."

Lange learned about the fellowship program from the Purdue College of Engineering. She looks forward to her new career direction. "I will be working in a high need middle school after I graduate from the master’s program at Ball State," she says. "I am specifically interested in middle school due to the energy level and unique needs of that pivotal age of student."  

Both Biery and Lange credit the Purdue Industrial Engineering program with helping them learn skills which they used as IEs and will now use as teachers. Biery learned problem-solving skills that helped her succeed in the business world, and Lange learned how to apply science, math and procedures in her manufacturing career. They will combine their IE skills with education knowledge gained from their master's degrees.

Lange says, "I plan to take the real-world applications I learned from Purdue and my engineering career into the classroom in the form of inquiry and project-based learning as well as providing meaningful tasks to the middle school math and or STEM classrooms."

The Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellows program is part of the highly competitive Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, recruiting both recent graduates and career changers with strong STEM backgrounds and prepares them specifically to teach in high-need secondary schools. Each Indiana Fellow receives funding to complete a master’s degree program based on a year-long classroom experience. In return, Fellows commit to teach for three years in the urban and rural Indiana schools that most need strong STEM teachers. Throughout the three-year commitment, Fellows receive ongoing support and mentoring.

Writer: DeEtte Starr, starrd@purdue.edu