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National Science Foundation awards Elon $1.2 million to train science & math teachers

A $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation will bolster the number of math and science teachers Elon University graduates in the years ahead through a partnership with the Alamance-Burlington School System.

From left: Assistant professor Jeff Carpenter, associate professor Janice Richardson, and associate professor Tony Crider.

Funding from the NSF’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program is the largest external award Elon has received to date, and faculty members who administer the program said they expect it will benefit Alamance County communities in a number of ways by aggressively recruiting science, technology, engineering and mathematics college students and developing their interest in education.

The money supports 50 paid, education-related summer internships during the five-year program for Elon first- and second-year students majoring in math or the physical sciences, including biology, chemistry and physics. The NSF funding also covers scholarships of $21,900 each year for 18 students in three cohorts during both their junior and senior years. In exchange for the scholarships, students agree to work four years in high-need school systems.

“We hope through the opportunities the Noyce Program offers we’ll be able to recruit some students to teaching who might not have been ready to commit otherwise,” said Jeff Carpenter, an assistant professor in the School of Education and the principal investigator for the Elon program. “Not every 19-year-old knows with certainty they want to be a teacher, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t become great teachers with the right encouragement, training, and support. When I was a college sophomore, I didn’t know I wanted to teach.”

Carpenter was joined on the grant application by associate professor Tony Crider in the Department of Physics, and Janice Richardson, an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

The Noyce Scholars Program will enhance Elon’s collaboration with the Alamance-Burlington School System. Most scholarship recipients will student teach in ABSS, the professors said. “We will double the number of science and math teachers that we produce in Alamance County,” Crider said. Among the internships to be made available to students are teaching assistantships with the Elon Academy college access and enrichment program for high school students in Alamance County who come from families with no history of college or with high financial need.

Alamance Community College wrote a letter of support for the grant application. Elon Noyce interns will have STEM-related opportunities at the community college. The program will be open to students from Alamance Community College eligible to transfer to Elon. The Elon professors believe that Noyce Scholars program would offer an affordable avenue for students who grow up in the area and attend ACC to benefit from Elon’s Teacher Education Program.

Eleven Noyce awards have been made to colleges and universities in North Carolina, and 362 nationally, since the program first launched in 2002. While all funded programs are dedicated to training future public school teachers in the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and math – universities are given the flexibility to craft their own initiatives.

One innovative element of the Elon program will be the support provided to graduates during their initial years of teaching. Funding will provide a variety of mentoring and professional development opportunities for Noyce Scholars. Faculty members plan to use e-mentoring through online video-conferencing services such as Skype, social networks that can facilitate online conversations, and for students who remain in North Carolina to teach, through school visits and site-based mentors.

“They’ll get support when they’re teaching. They’ll have professional development funds, and they’ll have mentors,” Richardson said. “This strengthens our teacher education program, having that support when they’re out there teaching.”

The Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program encourages science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors and professionals to become K-12 mathematics and science teachers, according to the NSF website. The scholarship track provides funds to institutions of higher education “to support scholarships, stipends, and academic programs for undergraduate STEM majors and post-baccalaureate students holding STEM degrees who earn a teaching credential and commit to teaching in high-need K-12 school districts.”

Elon received its award eight months after President Barack Obama’s pledge in his 2011 State of the Union address to produce 100,000 new STEM teachers over the next decade.

“In fact, to every young person listening tonight who’s contemplating their career choice: If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation, if you want to make a difference in the life of a child, become a teacher,” Obama said in his address. “Your country needs you.”

For more information on the NSF’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program at Elon University, visit: http://www.elon.edu/noyce


Eric Townsend,
8/29/2011 3:35 PM