Meet a Teacher
Assistant Principal Chelsea Easter
1st Grade Christine Bizzell
Literacy Coach Katherine Hinkle
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."
Christine began her career in non-profit management, working with Indianapolis-based non-profit organizations working to help children through education. As a summer camp director and later working in classrooms through a school partnership program, she discovered an interest in becoming a teacher. The teachers whose classrooms she worked in recognized the immediate rapport she developed with students and encouraged her to pursue a career in teaching. After researching different routes to certification, Christine found the Indianapolis Teaching Fellows and joined the 2014 cohort. Today, she teaches first grade at New Augusta Public Academy and serves as a coach for other Indianapolis Teaching Fellows.
WE CAN MAKE CHALLENGING LESSONS ENGAGING LESSONS. OUR KIDS DESERVE IT.
From my very first classroom experiences, I learned to look for that spark of interest, that connection between the content and student’s lives. That’s where real learning happens. Even my first graders can tackle challenging content, if it’s engaging and relevant to their lives. That’s the kind of education me and my colleagues strive to deliver because our kids deserve it.
I recently ran into one of my first students, a fourth grader now in eighth grade. He told me he still remembers the lessons I taught his class four years later. Building connections between students’ lives and the academic content helps make it stick.
INDIANAPOLIS TEACHING FELLOWS IS DEMONSTRATING THE POWER OF GREAT TEACHING
One of my mentors told me my first year, “Let your results speak for themselves.” I believe that was powerful advice and one that all Indy Teaching Fellows follow.
The power of a program like this is that it goes beyond the classrooms being led by former Fellows. It’s the district partnerships, the university partnerships, the colleagues who see the progress your students make and say, “That’s different. What’s she doing?” We’re like ambassadors sharing these strategies, mindsets, and techniques to other teachers and other classrooms.
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"