State: The Magazine of Indiana State University
Janet Boyle wasn’t much different than many other college students, as she tested the waters with five different majors during her time at Indiana State.
“Everyone said I should do education, but I was stubborn,” said Boyle, ’75, GR ’78, Ph.D. ’81. “I got involved in a summer program, though, and liked working with the kids so I got an English teaching license.”
That experience catapulted Boyle into a career as a middle school English teacher in Elkhart. She returned to Indiana State to earn a master’s degree in secondary school administration and later her doctorate in secondary curriculum and instruction and cognates of gifted education, administration and English education.
Boyle went on to serve for 13 years as an associate professor of education at Manchester College, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and IUPUI before returning to the K-12 public school system to hold several administrative positions, including curriculum director at Center Grove and Wayne Township schools, assistant principal of Ben Davis High School and assistant superintendent at Center Grove.
During her time working in public schools, Boyle became familiar with the Center for Excellence in Leadership of Learning (CELL) at the University of Indianapolis, which helped her start an Early College program in a school district where she worked.
Created in 2001, CELL serves as a leading convener, catalyst and collaborator for dynamic, innovative education change to dramatically impact student achievement throughout Indiana. CELL focuses its efforts on all children graduating from high school fully prepared for success in post-secondary education and the 21st century workforce.
Boyle started as an assistant director with CELL in 2011 before transitioning to the interim director. Boyle assumed the executive director position at CELL in 2016.
“I’m a person who likes education but needed variety,” she said. “CELL has helped me to stay interested, and we have a wonderful staff with a great work ethic.”
With primary funding from Lilly Endowment Inc., CELL has leveraged resources to unite schools, communities and businesses to make substantial, sustainable, statewide education change to improve academic success for Hoosier students and strengthen the quality of life and economic development in Indiana.
“Our mission is to bring education innovation to Indiana,” said Boyle, CELL’s executive director. “What we are doing is always changing. We launch new initiatives and move on to other areas of education that the state needs help in.”
CELL was behind the implementation of the New Tech model in Indiana schools, which merges project-based learning with integrated technology use and an empowering school culture. CELL facilitated a statewide network of New Tech high schools, providing support and collaborative opportunities to schools engaged in the implementation process and schools interested in the New Tech model.
“We have many in the state now that they needed their own staff, so it spun off from CELL,” Boyle said. “We also have an education workforce innovation network team that works around that state to connect schools and the state’s workforce to ensure that our students learn the skills for the jobs that are needed in state.”
Since 2006, CELL has also been committed to expanding student access Early College programs, in which high schools offer enough dual-credit courses so that students may earn up to an associate degree by the time they graduate from high school. Most Indiana high schools offer students dual-credit courses, but far fewer offer Early College programs.
“CELL is working to expand its current STEM Teach initiative with Indiana’s public and private colleges to help dual credit teachers get the science and math credentials they need to teach these courses,” Boyle said.
“It’s a win-win for teachers, universities and the state. That’s why we’ve done a huge amount of work to raise awareness of dual credits and the positive impact it can have on kids and families down the road if it’s done right.”
A $22 million Lilly Foundation grant is helping CELL to improve counseling programs in schools across the state. CELL is one of three technical assistance providers designated by the Endowment to assist schools across the state with the counseling initiative.
“We see a lot of issues with depression and kids thinking of suicide, so we want teachers and counselors to be better prepared to handle these types of issues,” Boyle said. “Kids can’t learn if they have so many other things like that to deal with, so I think this is the next wave of need we will see in the state.”
Throughout its existence, CELL has provided assistance in each of Indiana’s 92 counties, although Boyle would like to increase the connection with rural schools.
“(CELL) is always looking at how we can help schools be better than they are,” she said. “We have great schools but they have their struggles, and I would really like to work with more rural schools because they have different challenges.”