An interdisciplinary team of William & Mary faculty received more than $1 million from the National Science Foundation to place 33 STEM teachers in high-need school districts.
Announcement of the $1,199,858 in NSF funding came in a press release from U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA).
“This critical funding will support the recruitment of math and science teachers to six high-need school districts,” said the senators in the joint release. “Enhancing STEM education is a critical priority, and we are thrilled that William & Mary students and the National Science Foundation are partnering with schools in the local community to pursue this important endeavor.”
The funding is an extension of the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program at William & Mary. The Noyce Program is an NSF initiative to meet the need for K-12 STEM teachers in U.S. schools by encouraging science and math majors in colleges and universities to consider a career in grades 6-12 education.
The idea, Paul Heideman explains, is to develop expert teachers who not only know science and math, but who also know how to make science and math understandable to their students. The program awards substantial scholarships to college- and master's-level STEM students who agree to teach math or science in a high-need school district. The Noyce Program also involves specialized courses, pedagogical training and in-school teaching experiences.
William & Mary’s NSF Noyce Program is a partnership between William & Mary’s School of Education, STEM departments, and Office of Community Engagement. Heideman, a professor in William & Mary’s Department of Biology, is the principal, working closely with a team that includes Chancellor Professor of Geology Heather Macdonald as well as Professor Marguerite Mason and Assistant Professor Meredith Kier, both of the William & Mary School of Education.
Other team members include Amy Chen, the Noyce recruiter/ mentor and Melody Porter, the director of the university’s Office of Community Engagement. A big part of the Noyce Program is working with the W&M Office of Community Engagement, Heideman said. Porter and her staff work to help with recruiting and in arranging teaching-related experiences for potential Noyce Scholars in tutoring and other experiences in local communities.
The program has forged ongoing collaborations in the Gloucester, New Kent, York County, Newport News, Hampton and Williamsburg-James City County school districts.
“This is very much a team effort, a partnership of all of us,” he said, adding that the team members share duties broadly, but some tasks naturally fall into disciplinary niches: “Heather and I are the major liaisons with the science and math departments. Meredith and Margie do a large amount of the teaching of our Noyce Scholars in science education and math education.”
Heideman said that the new NSF grant will allow the William & Mary team to investigate the long-term success of the Noyce placements. He explained that there are three broad motivations for Noyce Scholars. He called the first group the “content enthusiasts,” people who love a STEM discipline and want to share the word with young people. Then there are others who just really love teaching. A third group include those who bring a view of equity or social justice to a mission of teaching in a high-need school.
“One of the things we want to look at with this new grant is those three broad, different motivations,” he said. “How do those match up to people who are interested in high-need schools? We know from lots and lots of research that one of the things that motivates people to go into a career and stay there is a feeling of what they do matters to other people.”