Eighteen University of West Florida students will benefit from a $1.3 million grant awarded to the university by the National Science Foundation. The five-year grant is meant to support UWF students pursuing teaching careers in STEM fields, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“Eighteen STEM majors will become Robert Noyce Scholars and receive funding for the cost of attending UWF during their junior and senior years,” said Dr. John Pecore, an associate professor in the Department of Teacher Education and Educational Leadership in UWF’s College of Education and Professional Studies, and the person who proposed and will administer the NSF grant.
To be eligible to become a Noyce Scholar, students must be pursuing a UWF-Teach degree. Through a collaboration between the Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering and the College of Education and Professional Studies, UWF-Teach students graduate in four years with a Bachelor of Arts degree in a STEM field and a Florida grades six through 12 professional teacher certification. In addition to completing the content of a regular science or math major, the student also completes education coursework and practical teaching experience.
The Noyce Scholarship Grant will fund the participation of the 18 UWF-Teach Noyce Scholars in a citizen-based education research project where they will collaborate with a Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering faculty member and a STEM master mentor to design lessons meant to engage middle or high school students in an ongoing UWF faculty research project.
“After graduating, each highly qualified Noyce scholar will work with an average of 150 different students per year for a total of approximately 750 students every five years,” Pecore said in a statement. “Eighteen Noyce Scholars will impact an estimated 13,500 students every five years in high-need school districts.”
Students applying to receive a Noyce Scholarship must maintain a minimum GPA, submit faculty recommendations, write a two-page essay and sit for an interview.
“The goal of the Noyce program is to recruit the best and brightest STEM majors who want to pursue a teaching career in high-needs school districts,” Pecore said.
In addition to funding the studies of juniors and seniors who become Noyce Scholars while pursuing their UWF-Teach degrees, the $1.3 million NSF grant will fund recruitment of students, with a special focus on recruiting underrepresented minorities into the STEM teaching field.
The project supports eligible dual-enrolled freshmen and sophomore STEM students at UWF, Pensacola State College and Northwest Florida State College. Support comes in the form of teaching experience in conjunction with coursework, as well as a summer internship at a middle or high school in a high-needs school district.
“The idea is early and often,” Pecore said in the statement. “We want to get STEM majors into the classroom as early in their college career and as often as possible during their four years of study. These field experiences in the school setting are invaluable.”
Besides funding 18 Noyce Scholars and supporting recruitment of STEM majors into the teaching field, the NSF grant is also dedicated to supporting graduates during their first few years of teaching.
Pecore said one of the ways to support new teachers is to provide continual opportunities for professional development.
“By collaborating with school districts, UWF-Teach graduates will receive additional supports to ensure their success as a novice teacher, increasing the likelihood that Noyce scholars will remain in the teaching profession and continue to impact thousands of students,” Pecore said.
In addition to administering the grant during its five-year duration, Pecore will also conduct research associated with it.
“We want to determine what factors encourage STEM majors to consider teaching careers and what factors contribute to their retention in the teaching profession,” he said.
According to the UWF statement, Dr. Jaromy Kuhl, chair of the mathematics and statistics department at UWF, is the co-principal investigator of the NSF grant. The other two co-principal investigators are Kirk Bradley from Pensacola State College and Sean Psujek from Northwest Florida State University.