The National Science Foundation has awarded Southern a five-year, $1.4 million grant designed to bolster science (especially physics and chemistry) and math education in the state’s high-needs school districts.
The funding will support 30 full-tuition scholarships to cover expenses of SCSU students in their final two years provided they plan to teach in a high-needs school district for at least four years after graduation. The NSF designates districts as “high need” based on several criteria, including the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced lunch, as well as teacher attrition rates and certification of teachers in areas they actually teach.
The grant, known as the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program — also covers fees and an $800 stipend to be used for books. Students must meet various eligibility requirements, such as having a GPA of at least 3.0, being a science or math major, and acceptance into the College of Education’s teacher education program.
Carrie-Anne Sherwood, SCSU assistant professor of curriculum and learning and coordinator of secondary science education, is the principal investigator and is coordinating the project. She said the goal is to recruit and train high quality, diverse candidates to go into school districts that often struggle to attract STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) teachers.
“STEM teachers are at a premium these days as many studying in these fields go onto higher paying jobs in private industry,” Sherwood said. “But the state is in need of STEM teachers, especially in many of our urban school districts. This grant is intended to make it more attractive to become a science or math teacher in these districts.”
SCSU is being joined in this project by several partners, including Gateway Community College, as well as the New Haven, Hamden and Meriden school districts. A regional education service center is also assisting in this program.
“We intend to recruit students from the community colleges, especially Gateway,” Sherwood said. “And we hope to place student-teachers in this program in the New Haven, Hamden and Meriden schools, where they would gain valuable experience.”
Stephen Hegedus, dean of the SCSU College of Education, said he is excited about the impact that such an award will have on schools and children in the region.
“This will allow us to recruit and support students into STEM teaching, as well as support them during and after they complete their teacher preparation programs,” Hegedus said.
“I am also very proud that the College of Education, in collaboration with other departments on campus, can accelerate its mission to meet the needs of schools in Connecticut with this competitive funding from the NSF.”
Gateway CEO William Terry Brown looks forward to the project.
“Gateway Community College is excited to partner with SCSU on this critical project to increase the number of qualified STEM teachers for our young people,” Brown said.
“With all the scientific and technological advances and challenges that face us today, we need dedicated, creative teachers more than ever to inspire our children to develop new technologies, develop new solutions and explore the mysteries of our natural world,” Brown said.
Sherwood said recruitment of students will begin in earnest this fall, and that students will begin the program next spring. Additional cohorts of students will be chosen in subsequent years.
(Anyone interested in applying for the program, or who have questions, can contact Carrie-Anne Sherwood at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 203-392-5047.)