IMPD to IPS: Retired Captain follows dream to teach 6th graders on the east side

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – From IMPD to IPS, a former metro police Captain has turned in his badge and is now teaching in the same east side neighborhood he used to patrol.

Michael Elder has transitioned from the force to the classroom, now teaching 11 and 12-year-olds math, science, social studies and English.

Reading to a classroom full of 6th graders is a new responsibility for Elder. Before preteens, he led both new and veteran officers.

“I think they’re connected; I really do,” said Elder.

This is his first year as a teacher for Ralph Waldo Emerson School 58 in the Indianapolis Public Schools district.

Elder always dreamed of becoming a teacher.

“I was an instructor for IMPD for probably 29 of my 32 years that I was there, so I always liked to teach,” said Elder.

Education was Elder’s original career choice. However, while attending Indiana University, he switched to criminal justice.

“I found this program, Teachers of Tomorrow, and it was a transition of taking my bachelors and turning into an education degree,” said Elder, “We talked and talked and in October of last year we were eating dinner and my wife goes, 'is this something you really want to do?' I said yeah, and she said, 'let’s look into it.'”

In January, Elder retired from the force, but he wasn’t ready to give up serving the east side community.

“This was the area that I patrolled on late shift,” said Elder, “A lot of things have changed since 1986.”

The students aren’t the only one’s learning. Elder says, he’s had to adjust. His expectations for his students are held at the same level as his past officers.

“The first week was basically just getting to know each other,” said Elder, “There’s gaps we got to fill, but I got to get them ready for 7th grade. That’s my job.”

Those high expectations, he says, are already paying off.

“We called them back today, they did a writing assignment and I had four of them that had 20/20 on content, now we had to work on some grammar things, but we have all year to work on that,” said Elder, “But they got what I was looking for.”

Elder’s background in community policing allows him to understand the challenges some of his students face.

“I don’t know how many of them get that, hey, you did a great job at home. I would hope all of them, but at least I know they’re going to get it here,” Elder explained, “I told my wife, if I have changed one student’s life for the positive in every class, and I hope I can do more, then it’s a successful year.”

Elder wants to continue teaching for the years to come, possibly for the next 10 to 15 years.

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