(Oct. 17, 2013) -- The University of Texas at San Antonio has been awarded a $1.4 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to assist community college students seeking to pursue teaching degrees in mathematics and science.
The funding will help support the UTSA Generating Educational Excellence in Math & Science (GE2MS) teaching program which prepares students to become highly qualified science and mathematics teachers in San Antonio and surrounding school districts in need. Through the program, students take an enriched instructional curriculum in four years and earn a math or science degree along with their teaching credentials. Currently, 162 students are enrolled in the program. Nearly one hundred percent of its graduates find teaching employment in the San Antonio area.
Under the new grant, community college students transferring to UTSA will be eligible to receive up to $20,000 in Noyce scholarships if they agree to teach at least four years at a high needs school district in the San Antonio area.
The UTSA multidisciplinary team involved in acquiring the grant included Aaron Cassill, UTSA director of STEM Initiatives and principal investigator; co-principal investigators Gloria Crisp, associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies; and Lorena Claeys, executive director of the Academy for Teacher Excellence in the UTSA College of Education and Human Development (COEHD); and Daniel Sass, associate professor in the College of Business Department of Management Science and Statistics. Additionally, Claudia Verdin from Northwest Vista College will act as coordinator for the Alamo Colleges.
"We looked at our current graduates in the GE2MS program and found that more than half of them started at a community college and then transferred," said Cassill. "Normally, we recruit students their freshman year and give them actual classroom experience so they can decide if they want to pursue a career in teaching. The community college students were missing out on this experience, so with this new grant we will offer introductory classes at the community colleges to help smooth the transition before the students transfer."
According to Cassill, local school districts can spend millions of dollars annually trying to recruit 200-250 math and science teachers from outside Texas to fill high-need teaching positions. The NSF Noyce scholarships will help UTSA recruit teaching candidates from a pool of more than 70,000 community college students.
To ensure a successful community college student transfer experience, the UTSA College of Sciences has enlisted the expertise of the COEHD Academy for Teacher Excellence (ATE). Since 2003, ATE has received more than $17 million in funding and was nationally recognized in 2012 as an Example of Excelencia finalist for preparing teachers to teach in culturally diverse settings.
"After the students transfer, we will be providing sessions on 21st century skills and traditional strategies for success as well as sessions so students can learn more about themselves, their strengths and how they can become better problem solvers," said Claeys. "Additionally, we will provide them with career transitioning guidance, tutoring and mentoring that can help them overcome personal or academic challenges they may face as students and as they begin their teaching careers. Through previous grants, the ATE has utilized this combination of support systems, which have proven successful in novice teacher retention."
Crisp's role for the COEHD Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies will be to carry out research on how mentoring and support assist transfer students in becoming top-quality teachers. That information will be used to create a model program that can be replicated nationally to increase the number and quality of math and science teachers.
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