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University of Wyoming wins grant to teach math, science teachers
Wednesday, 30 October 2013 13:24

From the Star Tribune

A $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation will help the University of Wyoming train 70 new math and science teachers over the next five years.

The grant, announced earlier this month, will pay for graduate education for students at UW working toward science, technology, engineering or mathematics degrees — fields collectively known as "STEM" — who would not have otherwise considered a teaching certificate, said Andrea Burrows, an assistant professor in UW's Secondary Education Department and the manager of the grant. Funds will also target college graduates with STEM degrees and military veterans with relevant STEM backgrounds, she said.

Current UW students selected for the program, called Sustaining Wyoming's Advancing Reach in Mathematics and Science, will have their tuition and fees paid for during their senior year at UW and during a post-baccalaureate teacher-certification program. People with STEM degrees will have their post-baccalaureate education at UW paid for through the grant.

For each year of funding received, students commit to teaching two years in a high-needs Wyoming school, Burrows said.

"It's innovative in the sense that it targets students that are in STEM fields that may not have thought of teaching," she said of the grant program. "It'll bring teachers with a high-content background, as well as a passion for teaching."

Three quarters of the $1.2 million grant will go toward funding about 14 scholarships per year until 2019, the release said. The rest will fund recruiting efforts and associated costs, including the costs of traveling to conferences and finding agraduate student researcher, Burrows said.

Several other organizations are partnering to recruit students for the program, and the university has already named a few high-needs Wyoming school districts where these new teachers will be headed.

For a school in one of those districts, the new teachers may help ease turnover in the sciences department.

"We've been lucky," Campbell County High School Principal Kirby Eisenhauer said. "We've found some good people, but the pools have been very shallow."

Candidate choices when hiring teachers for higher-level science classes like physics and chemistry were particularly slim, Eisenhauer said.

That's a trend the grant program hopes to change, Burrows said. UW produces fewer physics education and chemistry education students than in many other science and math education areas, she said.

From 2007 to 2011, Burrows said, UW graduated 56 chemistry majors and 11 chemistry education majors. During that same time frame, UW graduated 79 earth science majors and 10 earth science education graduates. By comparison, the number of biology and biology education majors were more comparable during that time — 68 and 43, respectively.

She hopes the grant will widen the pool of Wyoming-certified teachers for those highly specialized content areas.

"We would hope that there would be an interest for students that are getting chemistry, physics and earth science degrees to want to bring the experience and happiness that they have for the content into the classroom," Burrows said.

UW will collaborate with Northwest College in Powell, the F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming National Guard and Wyoming Air National Guard to identify possible students for the program.

High-needs school districts already identified by UW include districts in Big Horn, Fremont, Goshen, Hot Springs, Laramie, Natrona, Uinta and Washakie counties, though Burrows said any school or district that qualifies as high-need can hire the newly certified teachers. To qualify as high-need, a school or district must demonstrate a high percentage of students from families with incomes below the poverty line, a high percentage of secondary school teachers not teaching in the content area in which they were trained to teach, or a high teacher turnover rate, according to the Higher Education Act of 1965.

Applications for the program will be available starting March 1, Burrows said.


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