The Skomps met as freshman chemistry majors in 2008 in the Windows on Science class at IUPUI. Three years later they were married, just before their senior year at IUPUI and then lived together on campus while preparing to pursue teaching careers.
“It’s been nice to have that emotional support from someone you trust,” said Jordan, who graduated in December 2011 with a B.A. in chemistry from the School of Science. She attended New Castle (Ind.) Chrysler High School.
John Skomp, who looks more like a football lineman than an eighth grade chemistry teacher, recalled how both he and his wife realized midway through their undergraduate years that teaching offered them satisfying career paths. Since then, they have been able to support each other as they continue their education and training.
“We both did some tutoring at IUPUI, and that really helped us to understand how much we loved learning and encouraging others to learn,” said John, who graduated in May 2012 with a B.S. in chemistry. He attended Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis.
The Skomps, both graduate students in the IUPUI School of Education, consider themselves fortunate to be selected as Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows, a national program geared to support future teachers of STEM disciplines. IUPUI is one of five Indiana universities to partner with the Woodrow Wilson program. Fellows of the program become certified to teach after one year of master’s coursework. The master’s is completed after two years. They receive a $30,000 stipend and agree to teach in high-need schools for a period of three years.
The program is a collaborative effort between the schools of science, education and engineering and technology. It is coordinated through UCASE, the Urban Center for the Advancement of STEM Education.
They currently teach at Harshman Middle School, part of the Indianapolis Public Schools district.
“This has been an awesome experience,” Jordan said of student teaching. “I’m really beginning to learn what it means to be a good teacher and to better understand classroom dynamics.”
“It’s all about confidence,” John added. “You also need to set good boundaries in your class, because students are less likely to test those boundaries if you make it clear what is acceptable.”
Although both have pursued teaching careers, they confess to very different classroom management styles.
“I think our teaching styles reflect our personalities,” Jordan said. “John is much more laid back, relaxed and a little more flexible than I am.”
Currently, Jordan and John have experienced mentors in the classroom to help them make the transition, but they soon will be taking sole control of their classrooms. They credit tutoring, mentoring and lab experiences at the School of Science for helping to prepare them for the increased responsibility.
“The education field is changing so rapidly that it’s important to be as well rounded as you can when you graduate,” Jordan said. “Find a teaching assistant position or volunteer in a lab. There are a lot of opportunities on campus to be involved if you want to be.”
The Skomps will graduate in 2014 with master’s degrees in secondary education. The both plan to teach science in the Indianapolis area, although it’s still unclear if their classrooms will be as close as they are now once they find permanent teaching positions.