Collaborative Effort Prepares Future STEM Teachers

The College of Science (COS) will receive $1.5 million over the next five years from the National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship to support a program to prepare future secondary school teachers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines.

Mason's Accelerator Program provides tutoring in certain subjects. Here, learning assistant Radleigh Smith goes over physics problems with students. Photo by Alexis Glenn.

Mason’s Accelerator Program provides tutoring in certain subjects. Here, learning assistant Radleigh Smith goes over organic chemistry problems with students. Photo by Alexis Glenn.

Mary Nelson, assistant professor in the college’s STEM Accelerator and the Department of Mathematical Sciences, is the principal investigator on this interdisciplinary endeavor. Others involved with the program include Cody Edwards and Reid Schwebach in COS, and Len Annetta in Mason’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) as co-principal investigators, along with collaborator Calvin Bentley from the Annandale Campus of Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC).

“This is a great opportunity for the College of Science to contribute to President Barack Obama’s call for 100,000 new STEM teachers over the next decade,” says Nelson, who implemented a Noyce scholarship program at the University of Colorado-Boulder before coming to Mason.

“Fifteen students graduated as licensed teachers under that program,” she adds.

Funds will be used to support learning assistants in the STEM Accelerator and STEM classrooms at NVCC’s Annandale Campus. Talented students at Mason and NVCC who are interested in teacher licensure in STEM disciplines may apply for the positions. Learning assistants will gain practical teaching experience and develop confidence in their skills and abilities by working with other students. They will share a strong mentoring relationship with their own instructors and have opportunities to develop their professional skills by presenting talks and posters at conferences, leading recitation sections, and through other classroom experiences.

Noyce Scholars also will be funded by the program. Successful Mason candidates will receive $10,000 per year in tuition support for up to three years in return for their commitment to teach for two years in a high-needs school district for every year as a Noyce Scholar.

“The hallmark of this program is the interdisciplinary, collaborative effort being undertaken by [Mason] and NVCC,” says Tim Born, COS associate dean for academic and student affairs. “Each partner has a key role that will contribute to the success of our students as they prepare for teacher licensure, and working with community college students will allow us to create support programs that will help ease their transition from NVCC to Mason.”

This article originally appeared in the College of Science’s Periodic Elements newsletter.

To read more stories about Mason, check out the university’s News site.

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