- Year 2016
- NSF Noyce Award # 1136435
- First Name Jennifer
- Last Name Gresko
- Discipline Mathematics, Science
Rick Vaughn, Rio Salado College, Rick.Vaughn@riosalado.edu
Shannon McCarty, Rio Salado College,Shannon.McCarty@riosalado.edu
Karen Nave, Rio Salado College, Karen.Nave@riosalado.edu
Jennifer Gresko, Rio Salado College, Jennifer.Gresko@riosalado.edu
A nationwide shortage of qualified math and science teachers has led to sustained local, state, and federal efforts to recruit and retain additional teachers in these areas. In Arizona the shortage of teachers has reached a crisis proportions. The Rio Salado College (RSC) Science and Math Innovative Learning Environments (SMILE) Program for Encore Careers in Education supports the recruitment and training of 40 STEM professionals to aid their transition into teaching careers in 7th-12th grade math and science classrooms in Arizona. RSC provides mentoring and professional support to SMILE participants as they fulfill the required teaching commitment in high-need schools.
The primary goal of the SMILE program is to increase the number and quality of math and science teachers available to high-need schools in Arizona. Working with STEM-related industries in Arizona, Rio Salado College is identifying STEM professionals who are interested in transitioning to teaching careers and assisting them in meeting eligibility requirements and applying to the program. Successful applicants complete a comprehensive 15-month teacher certification program (based on the college’s Post-Baccalaureate Educator Preparation Program) with online course instruction and onsite student teaching experiences in conveniently located school districts. RSC will also provide mentoring and professional support to SMILE participants as they fulfill the required teaching commitment in high-need schools.
During the program thirty-two (32) Post-Baccalaureate STEM Professionals have been recruited and have begun the program. Each Noyce Scholar has received a stipend of $16,500 which helps to cover tuition, books, fees and some cost of living. The hybrid format of the SMILE program has allowed scholars to continue working as they complete online coursework, minimizing the financial impact of participation in the program and potentially limiting the period of unemployment to the time required for onsite student teaching. RSC has partnered with school districts and STEM industry to recruit and train STEM professionals who are re-careering to teach math or science in Arizona 7th – 12th grade classrooms. Six cohorts of outstanding STEM professionals from Arizona industry bring their STEM expertise and real life experiences to Arizona students. The RSC Noyce Scholars Program is committed to helping transition these STEM professionals as well as train them in pedagogy, student engagement, classroom management, and other 21st century teaching strategies.
During the program thirty-two (32) Post-Baccalaureate STEM Professionals have been recruited and have begun the program. Rio Salado is currently partnered with over 31 districts throughout Arizona which help provide recruitment opportunities (including rural districts) as well as field experience and student teaching experience. We also have 19 STEM industry/association partners who have collaborated with RSC and continue to support this initiative. There are currently 17 certified scholars with 15 teaching in high need districts and 7 scholars in the pipeline to be certified spring 2017. It is a projected that a No Cost Extension will be requested to enable RSC to recruit another eight scholars and continue the induction program for those scholars in the pipeline.
The SMILE Noyce Program continues to make an impact on the Educator Preparation Program (EPP). Over the last four years the department has implemented many of the Noyce’s application processes including the use of the Haberman Star Teacher Pre-Screener Test for all applicants as well as requiring all applicants to pass the National Series Evaluation Subject Content Exam which verifies content proficiency. All applicants prior to being accepted into EPP must now meet these two Noyce qualifiers. SMILE’s further impact has been the enhancement of several math and science courses for pre-service teachers and professional growth opportunities for pre-service teachers as well as master teachers. Several of our district partners sent teachers to the three Noyce Summer Workshops offering professional growth. This platform not only provides more community but affords scholars the valued opportunity to network and glean information from experienced math and science teachers. EPP has fully implemented the Noyce Response to Intervention (RTI) program which is a multi-tier approach to the early identification and support of students having difficulty in meeting the demands of the program.
The program has provided a much needed pipeline of STEM teachers for Arizona. Over the past three years, Rio Salado College Noyce program has provided seventeen certified math or science teachers for Arizona high-need districts. In 2013-14, 29 percent of Arizona’s teachers had three or less years of experience, and 24 percent of first-year teachers and 20 percent of second-year teachers left their positions and were not reported as teaching in the state.
The program has strived to strategically target STEM professionals approaching retirement age or who are interested in re-careering. Interestingly, the SMILE Website/ Social Media and the Education Preparation Program orientation have generated the most recruitment inquiries from the encore career STEM professionals. The program has definitely identified key characteristics of encore STEM professionals seeking teacher certification. These primary characteristics are being more mature and professional, having more industry work experience, and having a strong work ethic. Consequently, the combination of these characteristics is helping make math and science classroom come alive and generate more student interest in math and science. By providing this pipeline of STEM teachers, the SMILE Noyce Scholar Program is influential in training the next generation of mathematicians and scientists.