NSF grant will increase number of science, math teachers

Help is on the way to increase the number of qualified science and math teachers in West Tennessee. The University of Tennessee at Martin has received a National Science Foundation award totaling $1.2 million over five years to recruit 25 individuals who have science, math or engineering degrees to complete master’s degrees and teach STEM subjects. Lauderdale County Schools, Obion County Schools and the Gibson County Special School District are partners that will help select the new teachers and assist with their training as part of the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program.

The partner schools will play a key role in the project that could eventually impact STEM education across most of West Tennessee. “These counties are considered high need, and they’re seeking quality educators in the areas of math and science,” said Dr. Terry Silver, a UT Martin associate professor of educational studies. “These counties are excited to help their students become engaged learners in math and science.”

Dr. Steve Elliott, professor of mathematics and statistics and UT Martin STEM Center director, led university efforts to secure the grant along with Silver and Dr. Adam Bruner, assistant professor of chemistry. Elliott has a simple message for prospective Noyce Scholars Program applicants: “Teaching is a rewarding profession. You can succeed as a teacher.”

As a mathematics educator, Elliott knows firsthand the need to support STEM education in West Tennessee and beyond.

“A national shortage of STEM teachers results both from too few teachers entering the profession and too many leaving,” Elliott wrote in a project abstract. “Because of the shortage, fewer students receive high-quality STEM instruction.”

Through the grant, STEM bachelor’s degree holders will receive the training and mentorship at UT Martin needed for success in the classroom.

Applicants accepted into the program will receive a $29,000 one-year stipend and will complete the Master of Science in Initial Licensure degree, as well as obtain an educator license. Each teacher who completes the program commits to teaching a minimum of two years in a high-need school and will be supported by a mentor who receives a $2,000 stipend. The mentorship program is designed to address teachers leaving the profession.

“It’s a significant accomplishment anytime you are awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation,” said Dr. Shadow Robinson, professor and dean, UT Martin College of Engineering and Natural Sciences. “Through the focus on our K-12 community, the grant lives out UT Martin’s commitment to our core value of advocacy for service to our home region.”

Applications are now being accepted, and additional information about the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program is available at www.utm.edu/noyce.

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