Meet a Teacher
Assistant Principal Chelsea Easter
Literacy Coach Katherine Hinkle
English and Math Frederick Yeakey
Chelsea holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Adrian College and a master’s in African American literature from Loyola University of Chicago. She discovered how much she enjoys working with students at Playworks, a nonprofit that provides safe and inclusive play to students in urban schools, and joined Indianapolis Teaching Fellows in 2012. Chelsea now serves as an Assistant Principal at Indianapolis Lighthouse Charter School. She says, “My passion for education has only grown since training began four years ago.”
We got real practice, not just reading articles
Indianapolis Teaching Fellows really prepares you to manage a classroom. I already knew my content backwards and forwards, but training developed the skills I needed to teach it.
What made summer training so helpful is that we learned by actually practicing. By the end of the summer I felt like I had gone through every possible scenario that could happen in the classroom.
But even though I built up my skills and confidence considerably, I never once felt complacent because people were always pushing me to do my best.
I’m doing for our students what a teacher did for me
I expect a lot from our students because I know from personal experience how powerful high expectations can be.
My high school, where almost all students were African American and low income, was in academic emergency every year. People didn’t expect a lot from us, and the norm in most classes was getting decent grades for minimal effort.
My 10th grade English class was different. The teacher refused to let us off the hook, and continually pushed us to do better.
So when I hear complaints like, “You want us to do WHAT?! That’s too much,” I tell students about my English teacher. I tell them that, like her, I do not require hard work because I am mean, but because I know what they are capable of. I want them to fulfill my expectations—not society’s.
I walked into my classroom confident and ready to teach on day one."
Katherine is a Literacy Coach at Indianapolis Public Schools' Newcomer Program. She graduated from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis with a degree in Spanish. After teaching English in Korea and working as a bilingual assistant with Indianapolis Public Schools, Katherine joined Indianapolis Teaching Fellows in 2013: “I knew I wanted to be a teacher, and I wanted a program that was focused on creating long-term, lifetime teachers.”
MISTAKES ARE PART OF LEARNING
The summer institute was very intensive and, at first, I struggled. My coaches taught me that making mistakes is okay, because every time I learned something new, I got better for my students. I continued to develop with the support of my coaches. In 2015 I was chosen as teacher of the year at Northwest High School and was a top ten finalist in IPS. Last year I was honored to be chosen as a finalist for the Hubbard Life-Changing Teacher Award. I'm grateful for ITF and how they helped me become the teacher I knew I could be.
Now, I get to coach both teachers and students. I want students to feel supported when they make mistakes, because that’s where learning happens. I had a student who was reluctant to speak English, and uncomfortable and embarrassed in class. He started staying after school with me, and then became more willing to stumble through questions and was more engaged in lessons. That was a make it or break it moment, and his success made me feel proud.
I TEACH THE AMERICAN DREAM
Often, our school is the first time a student is exposed to life in the United States. As one of the first Americas my students meet, I am able to create positive, lasting impressions of what caring adults look like.
All of the students I serve are immigrants or refugees, and some of my students have never had access to formal education or had to stop attending school very young due to violence in their home countries. Our goal is to teach these students English, but we're also teaching them how to advocate for themselves, be successful in school, and transition to life in a new country.
They helped me develop my own teaching style and showed me how to use all of my resources to become a unique educator"
Frederick holds a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Kentucky State University. He joined Indiana Teaching Fellows in 2014, after working in nonprofit management and running an after-school program. Now an English and math teacher at Excel Center West, a charter school for adult students, Frederick says he feels “honored to teach in the city where I grew up.”
MY SCHOOL IS ONE OF THE FIRST OF ITS KIND
My school was founded to serve adults in Indianapolis who don’t have a high school diploma. Our culture is very welcoming and diverse, and we try to make sure no one feels afraid to learn or mess up, whether they’re a refugee trying to create a better life or a local community member who wants to come back to school.
My oldest student is 73 and my youngest is 18. I’ve taught students from Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Asia, Central America. It’s amazing to see my students’ hunger for education—and it really puts teaching in a different perspective.
I’M BUILDING THE COMMUNITY I COME FROM
I was born and raised in Indianapolis. When I graduated college, I had a lot of my friends in bad shape. My community wasn’t the same, my high school wasn’t the same.
I decided to come back because I wanted to make a difference in the city where I grew up. I wanted to help the people in my community looking for an opportunity to make it and show them what’s possible.