The University of Central Arkansas has been awarded a $1.2-million grant from the National Science Foundation to increase the number of qualified high school science and mathematics teachers.
The project, titled “A Systematic and Integrated Approach to Recruiting, Preparing, and Retaining Highly Qualified Secondary Teachers of Mathematics and Science in Arkansas” will be funded over five years through the NSF’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program.
The grant will provide scholarships, research opportunities, and work-study for eight students that will be selected from the physics, mathematics, chemistry, or biology departments.
“We’re going to pull them out of our freshman classes. Faculty who are teaching the freshman science and mathematics classes will recommend students out of their classes for these internships,” says Dr. Carl Frederickson, associate professor, who serves as principal investigator of the grant.
Students will begin in summer 2015 with a 10-week summer research project and internship that will introduce them to teaching as a profession. The grant pays for the summer class, as well as room and board to stay on campus for the 10-week period. During fall and spring semesters after the summer internship, students will be paid to serve as learning assistants in their individual departments.
A second focus of the grant is scholarships for six junior and senior students in the UCA STEMteach program. UCA STEMteach is a science and mathematics preparation program that models the UTeach program, which began at the University of Texas in 1997.
“The scholarships are meant to remove the financial barriers that may keep a student from completing his or her degree,” Frederickson says. “Students who receive the scholarships must commit to teach in a high-needs school district, based on the percentage of free and reduced lunches, for two years for each year of scholarship support.”
Dr. Mark Bland, assistant professor, Dr. Gary Bunn, assistant professor, Dr. Jason Martin, assistant professor, and Dr. Faith Yarberry, lecturer I, serve as co-principal investigators for the NSF grant. Dr. Andrew Mason, assistant professor, also serves as senior personnel.
“I am pleased to see that efforts we began many years ago have come to fruition. UCA is well poised to make use of these funds to prepare a robust group of secondary mathematics and science teachers to work in Arkansas schools,” says Dr. Steven Runge, executive vice president and provost.