Vaidya is an associate professor of teacher education in the Goodwin College School of Education, with research interests in academic optimism, high-need schools and developing content-based pedagogy.
Sheila Vaidya, an associate professor in Drexel’s School of Education, believes a good teacher can have a huge impact on a student, a school, and ultimately, an entire region.
In her role as program director of the Drexel University Noyce Scholarship Program—a National Science Foundation-funded partnership between the Goodwin College School of Education, the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems and the School District of Philadelphia—she’s helping to create teachers that are not only good educators, but role models for their peers as well.
“I’m really passionate about this,” Vaidya says. “Great teachers require a lot of education, a lot of training, and that’s what we are providing for them in the Noyce Program.”
The primary function of the program is to provide scholarships for students to train and eventually become Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics teachers in the School District of Philadelphia. The program’s goal is to attract and recruit teachers who are effective in areas of high need. As principal investigator for a supplemental grant, Vaidya has been tasked with training two “master teachers”—individuals already teaching in Philadelphia schools who will serve as leaders among their colleagues.
“Our goal is to vigorously prepare these master teachers to provide a lot of energy for other teachers,” Vaidya says. “The two that are currently being trained are master teachers will serve as prototypes for developing more master teachers—learning to be leaders—in the future.”
Vaidya says master teachers-in-training are taught everything from classroom enrichment techniques and leadership skills to field-trip planning and grant writing.
“It’s very important to show [students] that science and mathematics exist everywhere in the real world and to provide them opportunities to see that first-hand,” Vaidya says. “You cannot do that unless you have equipment, supplies and resources. We help them develop the skills to obtain these resources, [which] might not always be available from their schools.”
As part of her research to track the effectiveness of the teachers, Vaidya collects classroom and standardized testing data from the School District.
“It’s not always easy to obtain that data, but when we do, we can really see how the students are being impacted,” Vaidya says. “These are teachers who are leaders in the system who are inspiring other teachers, so we hope to see the data show that students are benefiting throughout the district.”
Vaidya says the master teachers are chosen based on their initiative, motivation and academic optimism—traits the program aims to inspire in the master teachers’ colleagues, as well.
“These master teachers are teachers who already believe students can learn, and we provide them with the training to take it to the next level,” Vaidya says. “Some teachers think that they cannot make an impact on students who are not already well prepared. When we choose master teachers, we choose educators who believe in all students.”