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What is Teach (STEM)³? Hear from UIndy Alumna Olivia Birdsall

a campus view

Maine native Olivia Birdsall wasn’t sure what to do after graduating with undergraduate degrees in art and math. She worked Olivia Birdsall headshotwith an artist residency program for a summer, but it didn’t work out. A few odd jobs followed—Olivia was a costumer, a photography intern, and a substitute teacher. One of those jobs stood out.

“I was really hoping every morning to get the phone call to sub somewhere,” Olivia says. “I realized I needed to pursue this.”

To make her new career a reality, Olivia came to the University of Indianapolis to take part in an innovative clinical residency teaching preparation program, which is now titled Teach(STEM)³. The program is designed to prepare recent college grads or career changers with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, to become effective teachers.

Olivia, who is now a math teacher at the Lynhurst 7th and 8th Grade Center in Indianapolis, shared three things that made her experience stand out at UIndy.

UIndy has valuable connections with area schools

Teach(STEM)³ is a yearlong, cohort-based program. In addition to time spent on the UIndy campus learning from practicing teachers, Teach(STEM)³ Scholars are exposed to working with K-12 students from the outset of their studies.

“We were in the classroom at least three days a week from the start. So we’re in the classroom a whole year, which I really like because you get to see how much students change, how the year changes from the beginning to the end.”

UIndy staff work with each scholar to place in a school district that matches their interests and style. For Olivia, being placed at Lynhurst worked out great. “I ended up getting a job where I was student teaching. They knew to place me at Lynhurst,” Olivia says. “They knew that would be the best fit and it turned out to be an amazing fit. I love my team, I love my students, I love the school.”

The faculty are more than great instructors

deborah sachs headshot

“Deb [Sachs] always seemed to know where we were and what we needed,” Olivia says

“I remember on the first day, the faculty said, ‘This is a really tough program. You can’t miss days.’ They were preparing us to handle the course load of that year,” Olivia says.

Imagine Olivia’s distress when she came down with the worst flu of her life right when a huge assignment was due. She was missing class, missing student teaching, and behind on her project with a 103 degree fever.

“They were so supportive of letting me catch up that week and giving me a little extra time and letting me cry to them on the phone because I was scared and I didn’t have a doctor,” Olivia says. “They were kind of like my family, like my parents. They were wonderful.”

Teach(STEM)³ lets you grow personally and as an educator

Going from a part-time substitute teacher to a full-time thought leader in K-12 education is a lot to ask of someone in a year. But UIndy gives Scholars all the tools they need to make those strides in the classroom and internally.

“I feel like I’m a very different person than when I came in. I’ve come out of the program knowing what I think, being able to justify the reasons of why I do what I do in my classroom,” Olivia says. “I feel like I have my eyes set on bigger goals, which I don’t think I would have predicted coming in.”

To learn more about the Teach(STEM)³ program, contact Assistant Director for Enrollment Whitnie Shay at or 317.788.2004.