FHSU receives $1.1 million grant for math, science education and exploration: Money will fund scholarships for study, stipends for summer jobs teaching in children's program

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HAYS, Kan. -- More than $1.1 million that will support and encourage mathematics and science teacher education at Fort Hays State University was announced at a news conference today on the university campus.

The funds come from the Noyce Foundation through the National Science Foundation. The Southwest Plains Regional Service Center, Sublette, is a collaborating agency with FHSU on the grant program.

"One of the great truths of the 21st century is that for a nation to become or remain 'world ready,' it must have a work force trained in science, technology, engineering and math education," said FHSU President Edward H. Hammond.

"To do that," he continued, "you have to have qualified teachers in those areas, called the STEM subjects. Fort Hays State has a long tradition of producing outstanding teachers of math, science and technology."

He explained that the grant will fund two initiatives, scholarships worth more than $12,000 for students studying to become STEM teachers, and $2,400 stipends for six-week summer jobs for students and potential students at math and science camps sponsored by the university's Science and Mathematics Education Institute (SMEI), which will manage the grant.

"This money from the Noyce Foundation will not only aid us in furtherance of the objective of improving and expanding science and math education, it is also a recognition of the great job we already do here at Fort Hays State," he said. "For example, the Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science allows the state's best and brightest high school juniors and seniors to complete a minimum of 68 college credits while living and studying on the FHSU campus."

The Noyce Foundation was created by the family of Dr. Robert N. Noyce, a co-founder of Intel and inventor of the integrated circuit.

Hammond introduced Dr. Bill Weber, assistant professor of mathematics and computer science, who will direct the scholarship program.

Weber said that during the five years of the grant period, up to six of the scholarships will be awarded each year to junior or senior education students majoring in a science or mathematics field. At FHSU that would cover biology, chemistry, physics, geosciences or mathematics. The scholarship can be used for housing, books, a computer, tuition or undergraduate research.

"We're going to start by awarding six of these scholarships for next fall," he said, "but this is more than just a scholarship program. We will train teacher leaders who can thrive in a rural school setting and who also have the skills and expertise to teach at a distance."

Students can renew their scholarships for one year. Recipients must also commit to teach after graduation in a "high-needs" school district. The requirement is that they teach two years for every year they received a scholarship. High-needs schools are those serving a high percentage of families below the poverty line, those with a high percentage of students do not speak English as their first language, or those which serve rural populations.

The program seeks to train teachers who can be certified as advanced placement, or AP, teachers, which means they can teach course work that can count for college course credit. High-need school districts have a real shortage of AP-certified teachers, said Weber.

Another aspect of the program that makes it more than a simple scholarship program, said Weber, is the support that will be provided after graduation. One real problem for brand new teachers in rural and high-need school districts is that the first year is often served almost in isolation, cut off from any sort of support network. FHSU and Southwest Plains, as part of the Noyce program, will create a network of support to help new teachers get through that "induction" year, the first year out on their own.

"We're going to create a network of teacher-leaders to help these new teachers adjust and thrive in high-need districts," he said. "They are not going to be thrown out there to sink or swim all on their own."

Hammond next introduced Dr. Paul Adams, the university's Anschutz Professor of Education and professor of physics, who is also the director of the Science and Mathematics Education Institute. Adams will direct the Summer Scholars segment of the Noyce grant program.

"While the scholarships are great to provide support for students who are already interested in teaching, we also want to increase the number of students who might consider teaching as a career," he said. "To address this we have built in a summer program targeting students who have completed the freshman year and interested in exploring a career in science teaching."

The Summer Scholars program will provide each of up to six students per summer for the next four summers with $2,400 for six weeks of work in the summer STEM programs offered through the SMEI. He said the work will provide an opportunity for students "to experience teaching STEM to kids and find out for themselves the rewards of being a teacher."

Summer programs include the Girls Math and Science Camp, the Art and Science Camp, the Robotics Camp, and the Water Park Math Camp. The SMEI also conducts sessions in Camp Invention®, a product of Invent Now Inc. These are week-long problem-solving and teamwork skills summer camps for children entering first through sixth grades.

In addition to working with youth in the SMEI programs, he said, the Noyce Summer scholars will have the opportunity to interact with expert STEM teachers, attend seminars on the teaching profession and be involved in teacher professional development workshops.

"A unique aspect of the program is that applications are open not only to FHSU students interested in teaching, but also community college students considering coming to FHSU as a teacher or students interested in transferring to FHSU," said Adams. "Our hopes are to increase the talent pool of STEM teachers for Kansas, and specifically those coming to FHSU."

Students must have completed at least the freshman year to be eligible for the summer program. Students must already be majors in a STEM field, or open to becoming a STEM major, said Adams.

He summed it up this way: "We're going to pay you money to be a teacher in a math-science setting and see if that's what you want to do as a career."

Dr. Gavin Buffington, chair of the Department of Physics at FHSU, serves as the Noyce grant and program administrator.

Applications for the scholarships and information about that and the summer program are available through the Noyce tab on the Web page at www.fhsu.edu/smei