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Ithaca College to use another federal grant to help curb STEM teacher shortage

By Eric Reinhardt

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A high-school student works in a science lab on the Ithaca College campus. The college will use a second federal grant to help train additional STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teachers. (PHOTO CREDIT: GIO SANTACROCE/ITHACA COLLEGE)

ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithaca College (IC) is using a federal grant of $1.1 million to help increase the number of “highly qualified” STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) educators.

The funding was allocated through the National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Scholarship Program, Ithaca College said in an Aug. 2 news release. 

Building on the success of the first grant, this funding will expand recruitment efforts, improve student-centered instruction, foster a culture of continuous professional growth, and study teacher retention and success, the school said. 

Ithaca College was awarded its first Noyce grant in August 2011, Dan Verderosa, content specialist at the college, tells CNYBJ in an email message.

IC cites a recent paper from the Washington, D.C.–based Economic Policy Institute, which said, “experienced, fully certified teachers are the most critical resource denied to many students, especially in high-needs school districts,” per the release. Ithaca College’s Michael (Bodhi) Rogers and his colleagues recognize the issue and, with the support of its second Robert Noyce Scholarship Program grant, is “looking to counter it.”

Rogers, a professor of physics, coordinates the college’s science-teaching program and is principle investigator of the two Noyce grant awards.

“The declining number of teachers in the STEM field comes at a cost to the kids in K-12,” Cristina Gomez, an associate professor in IC’s mathematics and education departments, said in the release. “So, one of our goals is to develop teachers who have a STEM background and understand ways to teach children in these areas.”

Ithaca College will provide stipends for 49 STEM bachelor’s degree holders to complete a 13-month master’s level program. It includes working in local educational agencies that serve at least one high-needs school. Those involved will complete the requirements for teacher licensing in biology, chemistry, earth science, mathematics, physics or childhood education. They will also have the opportunity to participate in enhanced professional-development activities such as teaching conferences; workshops for teaching in high-needs schools; and a summer teaching workshop.

“We were very successful in recruiting and graduating teachers and supporting high-needs schools with the first grant,” Peter Martin, an associate professor in Ithaca College’s department of education, said. “However, we didn’t have the means to officially study the effect of the program. This grant will allow us to see what is successful and contribute more to the field.”

Research study

The project will include a multi-year research study that will examine the impact of a pre-service culture of continuous learning, growth and professional development, confidence in handling challenges, participation in leadership activities, and teacher retention. The study will look to inform other teacher preparation programs nationwide and provide strategies for improving the retention of new teachers.

“The first grant was very successful. Thirty-four of our first Noyce grant scholars are teachers today,” said Rogers. “These teachers are impacting a new group of students every year, which has a multiplying effect not only on students, but their families and other teachers. This is enormous, rewarding and why teaching is a profession to be proud of.”

Chris Martin was a recipient of the first Noyce grant. He teaches at Lehman Alternative Community School in Ithaca. Martin previously worked as a manager for a web-design company in northeastern Pennsylvania. He was looking for a career change and came to IC to complete his master of arts in teaching, which he accomplished in 2014.

“I cannot understate how helpful the Noyce program has been in my development as an educator,” Martin said in the release. “It was designed specifically for people like me. It lured me away from industry and into teaching by offering first-rate professional development. From attending conferences to classroom resources, to access to a network of inspiring and talented teachers, the Noyce program was a significant contributor to my acceptance into the New York State Master Teacher Program this past year.”

Contact Reinhardt at ereinhardt@cnybj.com

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