Stephen F. Austin State University

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SFA receives second round of National Science Foundation funding to support STEM students

May 10, 2016 - University Marketing Communications
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Stephen F. Austin State University professors in several departments were recently awarded a second round of funding from the National Science Foundation's Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program totaling just over $1 million.

The Noyce program seeks to encourage talented science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors and professionals to become K-12 STEM teachers.

"We are honored that the National Science Foundation values the work that we are doing with STEM teacher recruitment and support," said Dr. Lesa Beverly, SFA professor of mathematics and statistics and principal investigator. "This is a collaborative project with a leadership team from mathematics, biology, and secondary education and educational leadership with 11 community college partners as well as with the Region 7 Education Service Center."

SFA faculty members Dr. Keith Hubbard, professor of mathematics and statistics, Dr. Chrissy Cross, assistant professor of secondary education and educational leadership, and Dr. Dennis Gravatt, associate professor of biology, are also serving as co-principal investigators. Dr. Ray Darville, professor of sociology, is acting as the project evaluator to help ensure program impact and continued success.

"We are working together for a common goal," Beverly said, "to recruit STEM majors into a teaching career by providing support, financial and otherwise, during their junior and senior years and as they transition from student to professional educator."

The recent Noyce program award is the second phase of funding. The original award was made in August 2011 for a total amount just under $1.5 million. With the new award, the program will be carried forward until 2021.

"I am so proud of the 20 scholars from Phase I of the project," Beverly said. "Each scholar was awarded $30,000 in scholarship funds. In some cases, the students would not have been able to complete their degrees without this financial support. Most will tell you, however, that community support was truly what has made the most significant impact on their lives.

"The scholars have had the advantage of the multi-mentoring strategy employed in the project," she added. "Our mentoring team consists of the faculty leadership team, a retired teacher with more than 25 years of experience, and master teachers from neighboring districts. In addition, the scholars have formed lasting relationships with each other as well as with other education professionals they have met through the program."

Ten T4 scholars are now teaching as a result of the first round of funding. Six will graduate in May and are being sought by school districts, and two are in graduate school.

"They are an amazing group, and we receive feedback from their supervisors asking for more just like them," Beverly said. "Principals tell us that our scholars are ready to hit the ground running and are more advanced than most first-year teachers. From the researchers' point of view, this project has led to three published journal articles and a wealth of additional data. Phase II extends this research effort.

"Phase II will provide scholarships and support for 20 additional students and also will allow us to continue to study the impact of the first 20 scholars," Beverly said. "In addition to the scholarships, we have two additional recruitment initiatives, including the Job Shadow Experience, which was a success during Phase I. Ninety students from across the state will have the opportunity to shadow master STEM teachers for a full week to provide a realistic picture of the teaching career."

Phase II also will serve as the impetus for a new initiative that will begin in the fall, she added. Two new courses are in development for SFA STEM freshmen wishing to explore teaching as a career option.

"Funds from the T4 project will provide 80 students tuition reimbursements for these two courses, which we are calling STEM Teacher Test Drives," Beverly said. "This is truly an exciting time in STEM teacher recruitment and preparation!"

This material is based upon work supported from the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1556983. Any opinions, finding, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.