$1.2M Grant to Help Columbus State Produce More STEM Teachers

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University will receive nearly $1.2 million to help recruit, develop and graduate more high school science and mathematics teachers over the next five years.

CSU will build upon existing resources to establish new internships, scholarships, summer camps and seminars, thanks to a $1,196,790 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Scholarship Program.  This NSF program aims to increase the number of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) teachers.

The funds complement a UTeach grant awarded to CSU in July to also increase the number of science and math education majors who become STEM teachers.

“Over the next five years, both grants will enable us to pump about $2.6 million into math and science teacher preparation,” said Tim Howard, director of CSU’s Math and Science Learning Center and lead administrator of the Noyce grant. “We will aggressively recruit high school students from under-represented groups, plus military dependents and retirees, and current CSU students through special events, service learning opportunities and peer instruction experiences.”

The learning center, supported by both CSU’s College of Education and Health Professions and College of Letters and Sciences, is using the Noyce award to establish a “Columbus Region Academy of Future Teachers of STEM,” to be based on these core elements:

  • Paid summer internships for CSU freshmen and sophomores to recruit them   into STEM education fields.
  • A Summer STEM Honors Camp involving those CSU student interns guiding talented high school juniors and seniors in a two-week camp that culminates in a student colloquium where participants teach others about their own inquiries.
  • Scholarships covering tuition, fees and other expenses for pre-service teachers with a stipulation that each recipient commit to two years of STEM teaching in a high need school per year of funding (initially $10,000-13,000 annually). Eligible students include juniors and seniors in STEM-related secondary education fields and post-baccalaureate students seeking teaching certification in a STEM area.
  • A Teaching Connections Seminar encouraging pre-service teachers to explore connections between coursework in their major and topics they expect to teach in middle schools and high schools.

Howard said the academy, dubbed CRAFT-STEM, also lets CSU build on an outstanding array of existing resources, including CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center, Columbus Regional Mathematics Collaborative and the Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center.

Howard, a mathematics professor, is directing CRAFT-STEM with assistance from faculty colleagues Deborah Gober (teacher education), Kimberly Shaw (physics and physics education) and Cindy Henning (mathematics education and Honors Program director). He said the new program dovetails with UTeach Columbus, funded by the U.S. Department of Education and modeled after a successful University of Texas at Austin program.

"Given the tremendous emphasis on fields that involve science, mathematics and technology in Columbus and the surrounding region, the development of our capacity to deliver instruction in the STEM fields is critical to the economy in this area,” said Tom Hackett, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Recruiting bright students into STEM teacher education programs and developing content and teaching experts for area schools is a game-changing strategy in terms of growing and attracting businesses that emphasize innovation, science and technology."

UTeach is based on recruiting prospective STEM-education majors into free introductory courses and awarding $1,250 scholarships to qualifying students who continue in the program.

Both programs were “hatched together” as proposals and will feed one another, said Howard. “The CRAFT-STEM component targeting high school students will draw some into the UTeach introductory courses, and some of the same students are likely to earn the Noyce scholarships.”

While UTeach broadly aims to address a teaching shortage, the Noyce program, named after the inventor of a widely used computer chip, targets high-need schools, which are characterized by one or more of the following:

  • A high percentage of individuals from families with incomes below the poverty line (as high as 26.5 percent in Chattahoochee County among surrounding counties).
  • A high percentage of secondary school teachers not teaching in the content area in which the teachers were trained to teach.
  • A high teacher turnover rate.

For more information, contact the Math and Science Learning Center at 706-507-8464.