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UW-River Falls awarded prestigious NSF Noyce Teacher Scholarship Grant

May 1, 2017--The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the University of Wisconsin-River Falls a highly competitive Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program grant, which is expected to total nearly $1.5 million over five years. The grant will cover the majority of costs of a teacher training program for up to 70 students who commit to teaching for two years in a high-needs district following licensure.

"I am very pleased that the NSF has recognized the efforts of our STEMteach program," said Earl Blodgett, UW-River Falls physics professor and project director. "The grant may encourage highly qualified candidates to enter a career in teaching as well as providing local school districts with the science and math teachers they so badly need."

The recent award of $869,111 is for the first three years of this continuing grant. It is the second award that the university has received from the NSF in support of the STEMteach program. In August 2014, UW-River Falls was awarded $299,617 to create the new graduate program.

The STEMteach graduate program prepares individuals with an undergraduate major in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) to become licensed middle or high school science, computer science, and mathematics teachers after one year of intensive study. The program assists in meeting state and regional needs for highly qualified and well-prepared teachers in STEM fields. 

"STEMteach was designed to make a career in teaching science, math, or computer science a real option for many who thought it was too late," said Diane Bennett, former associate director for STEMteach and now interim director of the UW-River Falls Grants and Research Office. "Our unique program encourages recent STEM graduates and professionals to bring their knowledge and life experiences into the classroom for the benefit of future generations of students."

One focus area of the grant is to make teaching attractive and attainable for low-income and first generation college students as well as those underrepresented in STEM and STEM teaching.

Working with Century College in White Bear Lake, Minn., UW-River Falls will recruit STEM pre-major students to participate in summer internships. In addition to receiving this "taste of teaching," interns will gain career readiness instruction as they apply for teaching internships.

Some interns may decide to transfer into a teacher preparation program and receive a bachelor's degree, according to Blodgett. Others may continue their studies in a STEM major for now, but pursue their teaching license through the STEMteach graduate program after receiving their undergraduate degree.

"Because of the rigorous pace of courses and the early opportunities for field experiences in classrooms, STEMteach students often give up their day job to complete this one-year program," said Blodgett. "The Noyce Scholar stipends will significantly reduce the financial burden associated with this decision."

Graduate students begin intensive field experiences in the first course and continue throughout the program, culminating with apprentice teaching. Classes are held on the UW-River Falls campus and field experiences are arranged in local school districts, some of which are in economically disadvantaged areas.  

UW-River Falls is still accepting applications for the next cohort that begins June 12. For more information including application instructions, visit go.uwrf.edu/stemteach, email pamela.bowen@uwrf.edu, or call 800-228-5607.

UW-River Falls provides lifelong learners with academic, professional development and enrichment programs that are practical, flexible, convenient and affordable. A complete list of courses, course descriptions and online registration information is available at http://www.uwrf.edu/ContinuingEducation/.

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