Katie Knutson

PUTTING EDUCATION FIRST — Katie Knutson, center, is one of two Senior Clinical Prep Teacher Leaders (SCPTLs) is the district. She also is a an economics and history teacher at Crispus Attucks High School. As a SCPTL, Knutson oversees the work and progress of host teachers, creates professional development for the district’s student-teacher program and also works one-on-one with student teachers.

Many first-year teachers have a rocky start. Maybe it’s struggling to be in control of a class of adolescents; not knowing when or how to provide positive or supportive feedback to students; or failing to grasp the nuances needed to create engaging curriculum that lasts a full class period.

Often, these new educators are expected to immediately flourish without the support, guidance or mentorship from more experienced teachers.

IPS is at the forefront of solving this problem.

In August, the IPS Human Resources Department launched a couple of new roles under the District Teacher Leadership program that allows experienced IPS teachers to guide selected student teachers working in schools throughout the district.

“There’s the Clinical Prep Teacher Leader, which is based on the old host teacher model for student teaching, but then we have put in place more professional development (PD) and a selection process to make sure we’re having people host student teachers that are the strongest teachers across the district. We’re also trying to give them the right PD and support so they’re able to be a great host,” said Alex Moseman, talent pipeline coordinator for IPS.

There’s also the Senior Clinical Prep Teacher Leader (SCPTL).

Katie Knutson, who teaches both economics and history at Crispus Attucks High School, is one of two SCPTLs in the district. (IPS has about 125 Clinical Prep Teacher Leaders.)

“The role that Katie is in, she also has a role where she manages host teachers, which is where the Senior CPTL comes into play,” said Moseman. “She’s designing professional development, facilitating PD and working with student-teachers.”

Knutson said the SCPTL role is a yearlong commitment that includes creating curriculum that helps student teachers through their experience in IPS classrooms, producing modules and conducting in-person sessions with student teachers. SCPTL’s also mentor districtwide host teachers.

“We take common areas that student teachers might struggle with and we bring curriculum to them every three weeks or so,” said Knutson. “Our goal is to really make sure that our student teachers at IPS are supported and are receiving extra help and extra assistance that other districts may not be giving to their student teachers.”

Moseman said these new roles are a great way to build more sustainable and robust talent pipelines across the district. “Student-teaching is a really obvious first start,” he said. “Centralizing a program but also investing in the people in that program will yield positive results for teachers and students and families.”

Kuntson said it will also help to develop a cohort of first-year teachers who hopefully will return to the district. “Our goal is that the student teachers in our district are the best of the best. It’s no secret that there is a shortage of teachers and our ultimate goal is to create a foundation for student teachers who turn around and apply for our open positions — they’re already familiar with our students, they’re already familiar with our teachers.”

Even though the program just started in August, Knutson has already used her SCPTL skills with two student teachers.

Brian Campbell, who graduates from Indiana University in Bloomington in December, spent 60 days under Knutson’s guidance.

“In the beginning, she helped me with lesson plans and activities that were challenging and would fill a class period without leaving a lot of extra time. At different times, she kind of let me do my own thing,” said Campbell, who’s mom, grandmother and grandfather have worked as teachers and principals. “She critiqued me and helped me plan out what I was doing well and what I needed to work on. She also helped me out and taught me different logistics of the classroom.”

Knutson allowed Campbell to essentially take over her history class — but under a watchful eye.

“He took over half of my classes, so he was truly the teacher (others do a co-teaching role),” said Knutson. “He predominantly taught history, but I was in the room. I really wanted him to take ownership of that class. I really wanted to empower him and to give him the most realistic ownership of the classroom.”

Overall, Campbell said it was really good experience.

“I learned a lot about myself and what I need to do to make sure that I’m engaging and am providing the best curriculum. It was really eye-opening to learn about some of the things that I need to work on and to also learn about things that I’m good at that I didn’t realize I was good at,” said Campbell. “It was good to see where I’m at and the things that work and those that didn’t work.”

Knutson said although she’s grateful for the teachers at Crispus Attucks who took her under their wings during her first year of teaching in 2012, she wishes the CPTL and SCPTL role was around when she was a student teacher in the Carmel Clay school district.

“Through this program, we want our student teachers to feel that they have a community and a support system and they have people who are invested in their career, well-being and their future,” added Kuntson.