Elizabeth Campbell entered the University of Tennessee at Martin in fall 2015 with her sights set on a health-care career. Seven years later, Campbell is the first to complete the university’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, which prepared her for a new goal of becoming a classroom teacher in STEM education. Campbell received her education master’s degree in May and will begin her K-12 education career this fall as a biology and anatomy teacher at Riverdale High School in Murfreesboro.
The university received a National Science Foundation award in 2021 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. Program participants receive a $29,000 one-year stipend, complete the Master of Science in Initial Licensure degree, and obtain an educator license. Each teacher who completes the program commits to teaching at least two years in a high-need school district and will be supported by a mentor who receives a $2,000 stipend. The mentorship program is designed to encourage these new teachers to complete full careers in the classroom.
Campbell was raised in Dickson and is a Hickman County High School graduate. She completed a biology degree in 2019 and taught UT Martin anatomy and physiology labs for a year while deciding which medical profession to pursue. She then moved to Murfreesboro and worked in a pharmacy while still planning to pursue a health-care career. It was then that she realized how much she missed teaching.
“I missed teaching the labs, but when I was an undergrad here (at UT Martin), everything I did extracurricular was teaching,” she said.
“I missed teaching the labs, but when I was an undergrad here (at UT Martin), everything I did extracurricular was teaching,” she said, “because I taught group fitness classes for the (Student Recreation Center). I was the supplemental instruction leader for anatomy and physiology. I was a tutor for the athletic department for biology classes.”
Campbell had already decided to return to graduate school when Dr. Ann Gathers, UT Martin associate professor of biology, contacted her about the Noyce Scholars Program. Gathers was a mentor to Campbell during Elizabeth’s undergraduate days and encouraged her to apply. Dr. Steve Elliott, professor of mathematics and statistics and UT Martin STEM Center director, considered Campbell an ideal prospect for the program. “She had been out of school for about a year and wanted a different career path,” he said. “This (Noyce Scholars Program) offered her an opportunity to enter the teaching-career field with the appropriate training and mentorship and also that excellent biology background so that she could be an effective teacher.”
The Noyce Scholars Program offered several advantages to help Campbell progress successfully in the accelerated curriculum, including online classes that allowed her to remain in Murfreesboro and the absence of a financial burden because of the paid-tuition benefit and stipend.
“I think a lot of people struggle with going back to school when you’re already graduated because you’re already in the real world. You already have a job. It’s hard to step back from that.”
“A lot of stress was taken off of me so that I could focus on my classes, but at the same time it was so flexible being online that I could still work,” she said. “I think a lot of people struggle with going back to school when you’re already graduated because you’re already in the real world. You already have a job. It’s hard to step back from that.” Campbell completed the program licensed to teach seventh through 12th grade science and well prepared to take the first big step in her teaching career.
The start of the school year will be extra special and maybe slightly competitive at the Campbell home this fall. While Elizabeth begins her new teaching position at Riverdale High School, her husband, Logan, starts his new faculty position at cross-town rival Oakland High School. Logan is a 2018 UT Martin graduate from Centerville who graduated with a master’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University the day after Elizabeth walked the commencement stage in Martin. He, too, will bring a passion for science to the classroom as he teaches advanced biology.
While the Noyce Scholars Program offers several attractive incentives for successful applicants, Elliott said that among the benefits for pursuing an education career is that teachers get to inspire young minds, the kind of fulfillment that attracted Elizabeth Campbell to the profession.
“The light-bulb moment is what I like to call it. … I’ll know that I’ve made a difference as I see that (in students),” she said.
“The light-bulb moment is what I like to call it. … I’ll know that I’ve made a difference as I see that (in students),” she said. “… So, I’m going to try to make that difference for them with getting that quality of education and not making them scared of science – making them excited to be learning.”
High-quality education is vital to Tennessee’s future, and Elizabeth and Logan Campbell are ready to share their love for science with students as they embark together on classroom teaching careers. Information about the UT Martin Noyce Scholars Program is available at www.utm.edu/noyce.