UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
August 7, 2014—The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the University of Wisconsin-River Falls $299,617 under the Robert Noyce Scholarship Program. The prestigious grant will be used to create a new graduate certificate program that encourages and prepares science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals to become math and science educators in middle schools and high schools. The award received by UW-River Falls will fund the first two years of development of the new program, including tuition assistance and teaching internships.
"This award recognizes our long history and excellence in preparing teachers and professionals in mathematics and science," said Larry Solberg, dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies. "Our goal is to prepare outstanding science and mathematics educators so that they can inspire the next generation in these critically important disciplines."
The first courses in the new program, developed in collaboration with the UTeach Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, are expected to be offered next summer. The Uteach teacher preparation curriculum, created in 1997, has been replicated at 35 universities across 17 states. The UW-River Falls program will be the first UTeach-inspired program in the upper Midwest and the first to offer graduate-level courses.
"This program is designed for the successful STEM graduate or professional who discovers a passion for teaching and learning and wants to share this knowledge with young minds in a school setting," said Earl Blodgett, UW-River Falls professor of physics.
The UTeach model was designed to increase the number of STEM majors interested in becoming secondary science or mathematics teachers. The program takes candidates who already have expertise or training in a content-specific subject such as mathematics, biology, physics, or chemistry and provides them with the preparation and hands-on experience to gain an initial teaching license in secondary education. UW-River Falls has identified graduate teacher preparation in math and science as one of the university's strategic initiatives for the coming year.
"We seek to remove many of the barriers that our STEM graduates face when they consider entering the teaching profession," said Geoffrey Scheurman, professor and chair of the UWRF Teacher Education department.
This program creates a rigorous and yet streamlined pathway to an initial teaching license allowing qualified teacher candidates to complete their course requirements within one year, including the opportunity to have actual teaching experiences in their first classes.
"We plan to work with local schools to identify opportunities for our students to gain real teaching experience and to fill critical staffing needs," said Solberg.
At this time, middle and high schools in River Falls and Hudson as well as the Washington Technology Magnet School in St. Paul, a comprehensive secondary school with a science, mathematics and technology focus, will collaborate with UW-River Falls in the development and delivery of the program. More schools and other educational organizations will be invited to participate.
Erick Hofacker, associate professor of math education and co-director for the new program, said the NSF award complements work already being done by the university to pair teacher candidates with master teachers in our region.
"This provides our candidates with intensive and meaningful practicum experience before student teaching," Hofacker said.
Blodgett said that while the university is not yet accepting applications to the new program, he does welcome any inquiries from interested individuals. Students and STEM professionals may contact the UWRF Outreach and Continuing Education office by calling 715-425-3256 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.