by Julie Lineback
In one of the largest grants ever received at the University of West Georgia, the College of Education (COE) was recently awarded more than $1.3 million from the National Science Foundation in an effort to recruit and prepare STEM certified teachers.
Spearheaded by COE Dean Dr. Dianne Hoff – along with a team of seven committed faculty members, including co-principal investigators Drs. Jennifer Edelman and Anne Gaquere-Parker of COE and the College of Science and Mathematics (COSM), respectively – the grant supports students enrolled in the Master of Art in Teaching program, which is a one-year program for those holding a non-education bachelor’s degree seeking teacher certification.
“I was driven to write this grant because, sadly, the shortage of qualified teachers in STEM disciplines continues,” Hoff explained. “This leads to fewer children becoming excited about math and science, which over time will have a negative effect on the quality of Georgia's workforce.”
With support of the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, also referred to as the NOYCE MAT Impact Fellow Scholarship, student recipients will have the majority of their tuition and fees covered and receive access to state-of-the-art technology via the COE Innovations Lab and UWGLive Simulations. But the benefits don’t stop there.
“The Noyce program has many aspects beyond the scholarship money for the students, as it also includes a mentoring program and professional development opportunities for the students during their matriculation at UWG and beyond,” said Gaquere-Parker, who works with Hoff through UTeach, a teacher preparation program for students majoring in science and math. “It ensures continuing quality support even after they have entered the teaching profession.”
Carrollton City Schools and Carroll County Schools are partner districts for the grant, and many of the recipients will be placed in these schools. The West Georgia Youth Science Technology Center, a nonprofit organization, will provide professional development during post-certification years, as will the Carrollton-Carroll County Education Collaborative.
Recipients are asked to commit to teaching in a high needs school district in Georgia,
where in addition to leadership and professional development opportunities, they will
also receive a $10,000 salary stipend for up to four years following graduation.
“The demand for qualified science and mathematics teachers in Georgia is extremely high and growing,” explained Edelman, chair of COE’s Department of Early Childhood through Secondary Education. “We know our K-12 students need to be prepared for success in a modern workforce that values scientific thinking, technological innovation and problem-solving. Having qualified STEM-certified teachers in every secondary math and science classroom in Georgia will help students achieve that success.”
According to a report by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, the past two years saw an average math teacher vacancies of 246 in grades 6-12 and 164 in grades 4-8, and science teacher vacancies of 157 in grades 6-12 and 152 in grades 4-8.
“The shortage of qualified and enthusiastic STEM teachers creates a downward spiral in which fewer students interested in the STEM fields are entering college,” said Gaquere-Parker.
The projected growth rates of STEM-related jobs reinforce the importance of teacher preparation.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in STEM occupations grew by 10.5 percent, or 817,260 jobs, between May 2009 and May 2015. By 2024, the mathematical sciences occupation alone will increase by 28.2 percent, or 42,900 new jobs. Computer occupations are expected to increase by half a million new jobs, and engineering by 65,000 new jobs.
“Sustaining global competitiveness depends on a highly trained workforce, and this starts with excellent math and science teachers,” concluded Hoff. “This incentive will help us build a strong pipeline of STEM teachers for Georgia's schools.”