A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Barry Tyler

A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Barry Tyler

Imagine, one day you come to school and realize your favorite teacher has been laid off. As if school didn’t suck enough, you now have another reason to dread mopping in there every morning. In America, especially in areas like Chicago, and some parts of Northwest Indiana, teacher layoffs are an epidemic that plague the region.

Now I don’t know the exact statistics, but I do see the teachers rallying for better benefits, and I see the change that teachers wish to pursue. Barry Tyler, director of Northwest Indiana Partnerships for Teach for America is bringing education back to these areas.

“Teach for America our Chicago region has been around since 2000, and so in 2007 we started partnering with the Northwest Indiana communities and what we saw over the first few years of that partnership, was that there were a lot of school partners, and community partners that [we really just weren’t able to reach] and there’s a lot more capacity in need for qualified teachers in NWI,” Tyler said.

While Teach for America just recently started focusing their organization on schools in the region, the program has been able to reach out to areas in Chicago in need of teachers. The program is simple, when teachers quit, fired or laid off, Teach for America attempts to step in and offer educators whom are new to the field, but dedicated to the programs objective.

“Traditionally our core members [teachers] are recently graduated seniors from college, and universities and they sign up to teach in low-income communities for two years. What we’re trying to do now is partner deeper with colleges, and universities in NWI to get more of those current NWI residents who already know the landscape, they already know the schools because they’ve been in the buildings themselves and have direct ties to the community… and really get them started as educators,” Tyler said.

Not only are these areas benefitting from the refocus of education, teachers are also benefitting personally, and professionally from being a part of Teach for America.

“The biggest thing that we offer is ongoing professional development, so they get a coach who usually meets with them every two weeks and that coach is fully committed to helping them develop professionally and personally. [They] work with them on classroom management, organizing lesson plans and different things like that. But they also work with them on trying to figure out what they’re career paths will look like,” Tyler said.

While Teach for America is focused on bringing education reform to many urban, low-income areas, their main goal isn’t just to educate, but to bring back the fun to education.

“It’s two-fold. One we bring in teachers who kind of have a different background from our students in NWI, and so they get exposed to things outside of NWI. I know recently with budget cuts a lot of our students don’t go on field trips like they used to, and don’t usually get out of their classrooms. Especially even now with gym being cut from a lot of schools. Our teachers come in and they try to figure out ways to try infusing their own personal experiences into their classrooms to make learning fun again,” Tyler said.

Not only is it important for community members, and teachers to realize what has happened to education over the years- it’s important that students realize how the educated system has transformed over the years.

“We try to get our students involved in understanding how education has been impacted over the years, especially one of the things we focus on in NWI is industrialization, and how the big industries have come and gone in NWI and how that has shaped the type of education the students have been able to receive,” Tyler said.

While Tyler is a director for Teach for America, he is also Hammond High School’s football coach.

“I’m a Hammond High graduate. I’m real big on NWI, I’ve been here my entire life. So the lessons I’m trying to teach my football players, or any student that I come in contact with are things I’ve picked up during my time here in NWI. That my parents, my family or community leaders instilled in me. Our first lesson is education because it’s the most important thing. But at the same time we want students to be well-rounded,” Tyler said.