Wittenberg Awarded $1.17 Million For STEM Teacher Training Program
Springfield, Ohio – In August 2010, Wittenberg University became one of only two private liberal arts schools this year to receive a grant from the highly competitive Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The $1.17 million award will provide scholarships to 16 Wittenberg junior and senior math and science majors who commit to teaching at the secondary level in high-need school districts.
Typically awarded to large state universities, the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program was created to respond to the critical national shortage of K-12 teachers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The program seeks to encourage talented STEM students and professionals to pursue teaching careers in elementary and secondary schools. No more than 20 schools received the Phase One award for which Wittenberg applied.
“We are extremely excited about the new opportunities this grant will provide for Wittenberg students,” said Assistant Professor of Education Gina Post, who is the grant’s principal investigator along with Associate Professor of Biology Kathleen Reinsel. “The Noyce Scholarship Grant will provide tremendous support for students already interested in STEM teaching, and we also hope it will entice STEM majors to consider teaching as a profession.”
Eighty-percent of the grant funds will go directly to benefit students either as full-ride scholarships or paid internships in the field. Juniors and seniors who apply and receive the Noyce Scholarship are required to complete two years of teaching in a high-need public school for each year of support.
Post explains that the goal of Wittenberg’s program is to provide more than just scholarships for students.
“The idea is to create a whole support system that not only prepares students to enter the field of STEM teaching, but to stay in the profession over the long term,” she says.
In addition to offering scholarships for upperclassmen, the project will provide early field experiences for freshmen through internships in informal settings and schools and, for sophomores, internships at places such as the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory where they will learn to integrate research into classroom teaching.
It will also pair interested freshmen with teacher-mentors who pledge to mentor a student through his or her four years at Wittenberg as well as the first year of teaching after college. Building on Wittenberg’s established partnerships with high-need school districts in the area, the program’s mentors will come from Springfield City Schools, Mad River Local Schools, or Tecumseh Local Schools. Students will complete their student teaching in one of these districts as well. By strengthening the relationship with these districts, the project will help to ensure a future pipeline of qualified STEM teachers to serve in area schools.
In addition to local schools, Wittenberg is partnering with AVETEC, Upward Bound, Wittenberg’s Center for Civic & Urban Engagement projects Strengthening After-School Programs and Renewing the Core and the Creek, and Glen Helen Nature Preserve in Yellow Springs to create field experiences and internships for students. Once they have graduated, Noyce scholars can choose to fulfill their commitment locally or in any high-need school in the country.
Wittenberg hopes to nurture the professional development and growth of new teachers by bringing teacher-mentors, pre-service teachers and Wittenberg STEM and STEM education faculty together through a new STEM Teacher Learning Community that will include organized colloquia and opportunities for mentors and faculty to share their expertise with Noyce scholars.
Post said that receiving this highly competitive award from NSF speaks to the quality of the proposed program as well as the quality of Wittenberg’s existing STEM and urban programs and the depth of commitment from Wittenberg faculty across the sciences and in education to be a part of this project.
“I see this grant as helping to provide a kind of ‘circle of giving back’ where teachers inspire students and those students become teachers who inspire the next generation of scientists, mathematicians and STEM teachers—and it keeps going,” Post said.
Wittenberg students will be able to apply in spring 2011 for scholarships for the 2011-12 academic year and internships for summer 2011.
The grant period is five years, after which there may be the opportunity for Wittenberg to reapply.
Written By: Gabrielle Antoniadis
Photo By: Erin Pence