$300K grant aims to boost ranks of science, math teachers

SUNY Oswego has received a two-year, $300,000 National Science Foundation grant to develop a program to attract talented science and math students to teaching and to retain them in the profession.

The proposed program, “Full STEM: Creating Dedicated Science and Math Teachers for a Sustainable Future,” recently obtained the grant through the NSF’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, which encourages promising students and professionals to become K-12 math and science teachers, particularly in high-need school districts.

“The whole goal is to try to attract more people into STEM teaching (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)—not just bodies, but more of our best and brightest. There’s a lot of competition,” said Dr. Martha Bruch, associate professor of chemistry and principal investigator for the grant at SUNY Oswego.

The program aims to recruit teacher candidates in a number of ways and from a number of sources: partnering with local school districts to build awareness of the science and math teacher education program at SUNY Oswego, helping as many freshmen science and math majors as possible discover the rewards of teaching, approaching upper-class STEM majors about teaching as they reach a career decision point, and finding and attracting candidates from business and industry during career changes and after retirement.

Retention goal

Bruch said recruitment of teaching candidates is one challenge; another is retaining them in the profession once they have begun teaching.

“Overall, 50 percent of people who enter the teaching profession leave within the first five years,” Bruch said. “That’s an alarming statistic, and that’s overall. When you think of poor urban areas and poor rural areas, the problem’s even worse.”

Dr. Lorrie Clemo, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, enthusiastically endorsed the Full STEM proposal, a cooperative effort of the School of Education and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“We are extremely well positioned to move successfully in this direction,” Clemo wrote in support of the grant application. “Our $118 million new science and engineering complex, scheduled to open in 2013, has state of the art science facilities and is directly connected to our newly designed home for the School of Education (scheduled for 2014 completion).”

Bruch pointed out numerous SUNY Oswego-based programs already in place to support Full STEM: Rice Creek Biological Field Station, a 400-acre living laboratory rich in field research and teaching opportunities; Project SMART, a cross-school-district, interdisciplinary learning community of teachers, administrators and community leaders across the state; summer research opportunities for undergraduates, as well as a collaboration with the Syracuse Academy of Science; Team Sheldon, a partnership of Oswego County public schools, Oswego County BOCES and the SUNY Oswego School of Education; and experienced faculty in education and in STEM disciplines.

“This is a really exciting opportunity,” Bruch said. “What gives me optimism that this can be successful is that we have such a network of support.”

Coordinator sought

Dr. Diann Jackson, assistant director of Rice Creek and an adjunct instructor in the School of Education’s department of curriculum and instruction, is a co-principal investigator for the grant.

“We have gathered support in both the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and in the School of Education, and we are looking forward to putting together an innovative, quality program that will capture the excitement of teaching science and math to the next generation,” Jackson said. “I’m confident we’ll put an excellent program together that will continue Oswego’s strong tradition in teacher preparation.”

The next step, Bruch said, is to hire a program coordinator to oversee the many moving parts needed to make Full STEM a program: course and curriculum development; recruiting faculty members as student mentors and research partners; enhancing existing ties and forging new ones with area schools, community colleges and science institutes; developing student recruitment programs and materials; creating in-career supports for new teachers and much more.

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(Posted: Sep 14, 2011)

Tags: vitality, education pipeline