$1.2 million grant to fund STEM teacher education

The National Science Foundation has awarded $1.2 million to the College to increase the number of new math and science teachers committed to teaching in high-need districts in Minnesota. The five-year project will focus on rural and urban high-need communities in the Duluth, St. Cloud and St. Paul areas.

"We are thrilled to have received this significant NSF grant," said Dr. Jo Olsen, dean of the School of Education. "It not only allows us to provide financial support to promising math and science students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to pursue teaching, but it also allows us to implement creative opportunities to encourage more students to consider teaching as a promising profession and to provide ongoing support to increase retention."

Most of the grant funds will be used to provide Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarships to 34 students who plan to major and teach in math/science teacher education fields in high-need communities.

In Minnesota and across the country, K-12 schools are facing a shortage of math and science teachers. In 2015, St. Scholastica conducted an in-depth survey of regional school administrators to determine the extent of the STEM teacher shortage. Nearly half of respondents indicated that teaching positions in chemistry, biology, and mathematics would be difficult or impossible to fill. These results were consistent with statewide data compiled in the Minnesota Department of Education Supply and Demand Report.

St. Scholastica's efforts will focus on talented students with financial need and groups underrepresented in teaching math and science, including students of color, females and first-generation students. Noyce Scholars will receive scholarships and mentoring that will continue for one year once they begin teaching, with a goal of promoting retention. Upon receiving their teaching licenses, all Noyce Scholars would be expected to serve for two years in a high-need school for each year of scholarship funding received.

"Like many schools, the Proctor School District has seen teacher candidate pools for science, math and other STEM positions continue to shrink," said John Engelking, superintendent of Proctor Public Schools. "I am thrilled and excited about the potential of The College of St. Scholastica's grant focused on providing expanded opportunities to recruit teacher candidates to enter STEM fields. I look forward to collaborating with St. Scholastica and to increased prospects for highly qualified teacher candidates to enter our math and science departments."

To promote ongoing interest among potential future Noyce Scholars, structured immersion experiences in local math and science classrooms will be provided. A STEM teaching internship program will also be developed with local community partners to allow potential students to teach in a variety of settings, providing them with a deeper understanding of the role of educators.

Recruitment for the program is now open. For more information, contact Sharon Lohman at slohman@css.edu.