June 17, 2024
Life At Witt

$1.2 Million Investment in STEM Teacher-Leaders

National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program Funds Wittenberg’s Vision for STEM Educator Pipeline Development

In response to the critical need for more STEM educators in the Springfield community and beyond, Wittenberg sought out and recently received a $1.2 million continuing grant from the National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program (NSF-RNTSP).

The successful submission, titled “Addressing Springfield Community’s STEM Education Needs Together” (ASCENT-STEM), was led by Mike Daiga, associate professor of mathematics education, and Adam Parker, professor of mathematics.

“There is a large shortage of high school STEM teachers across the nation, including in Springfield. More efforts are needed to demonstrate the benefits of a teaching career, incentivize students to pursue STEM education, and develop supports that ensure the long-term success of new teachers,” Parker said. “The ASCENT-STEM grant is specifically designed to address exactly these challenges and reduce the barriers for future STEM teachers.”

The effort will include partnerships with the Springfield City School District (SCSD), the Global Impact STEM Academy (GISA), and Clark State College (CSC).

“We are both really excited to begin the work that will create a pipeline of at least 13 STEM AYA (adolescence to young adult education) teachers for Springfield City Schools and the Global Impact STEM Academy while supporting the good work happening in the Springfield community,” Daiga said. “We are happy to see work that began two years ago come to a fruition, and perhaps even more exciting is the programming impact and scholarship opportunities for future Wittenberg students.”

With the grant now in hand, Daiga and Parker are focused on setting up sustainable structures that will facilitate the creation of an effective pipeline of STEM educators. Their collaborative work includes the launch of a Learning Assistant (LA) Program, which will help foster co-teaching opportunities in introductory, active-learning STEM courses at Wittenberg. The project team will study the effectiveness of the LA program, by comparing academic outcomes in courses that utilize LAs with their prior iterations that did not utilize LAs. Perhaps more importantly, the LA program will provide close mentoring relationships between professors and LAs on how to teach introductory content, or content they could also teach as future high school teachers.

Daiga and Parker will also extend Wittenberg’s established partnership with the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont (GSMIT), one of the locations for Wittenberg’s annual FIRE Week programming. In February, 32 Wittenberg undergraduates traveled to GSMIT, like teachers from across the country do, to learn how to implement outdoor inquiry lessons. Through experiencing the inquiry-cycle firsthand, trip participants learned how teachers can stimulate curiosity and creativity in their K-12 students, all against the stunning biodiversity of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Such out-of-the-box thinking aligns with the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, which encourages innovative proposals that address recruiting, preparing, and retaining highly effective mathematics and science teachers, who will persist as classroom teachers in high-need Local Education Agencies (LEA), (a.k.a. high-need school district).

The ASCENT-STEM program is a Noyce Track 1 Scholarships and Stipends program that will implement recruitment strategies tailored to four student populations including recruiting area high school students who may develop an early interest in serving as a STEM teacher, transfer students from Clark State College and elsewhere, first-year Wittenberg students who have not decided on a career or vocation, and Wittenberg STEM majors in semesters 2-4. Besides recruiting and graduating 13 undergraduates pursuing teacher licensure in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics over a five-year period, ASCENT-STEM will create support structures for Noyce scholars during their early years as teachers after graduation.

“When surveying studies trying to improve educational experiences, teacher effectiveness is a clear difference-maker in student outcomes,” Daiga said. “Our leadership team is hopeful that these 13 Noyce Scholars will drastically change local AYA STEM classrooms, changing the community for generations to come.”

About the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program
According to its website, the National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program provides funding to institutions of higher education to provide scholarships, stipends, and programmatic support to recruit and prepare STEM majors and professionals to become K-12 teachers. The program seeks to increase the number of K-12 teachers with strong STEM content knowledge who teach in high-need school districts. NSF encourages partnerships between four-year institutions and two-year institutions, providing pathways leading to STEM teacher certification.

Wittenberg’s ASCENT-STEM program is supported by the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program Grant No. 2344921. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Science Foundation.

For more on the new program at Wittenberg, click here.

Cindy Holbrook
Cindy Holbrook
Senior Communications Assistant

About Wittenberg

Wittenberg's curriculum has centered on the liberal arts as an education that develops the individual's capacity to think, read, and communicate with precision, understanding, and imagination. We are dedicated to active, engaged learning in the core disciplines of the arts and sciences and in pre-professional education grounded in the liberal arts. Known for the quality of our faculty and their teaching, Wittenberg has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any four-year institution in the state. The university has also been recognized nationally for excellence in community service, sustainability, and intercollegiate athletics. Located among the beautiful rolling hills and hollows of Springfield, Ohio, Wittenberg offers more than 100 majors, minors and special programs, enviable student-faculty research opportunities, a unique student success center, service and study options close to home and abroad, a stellar athletics tradition, and successful career preparation.

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