Five years into a collaborative scholarship project designed to develop and support excellence in STEM teaching, Eastern Washington University is seeing successful outcomes and is developing plans to build on those accomplishments.
In 2017, EWU, in partnership with the Community Colleges of Spokane and Spokane Public Schools, was awarded a Robert Noyce Grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The 5-year, $1.459 million project has since been focused on increasing the number of teachers who graduate from EWU with a degree in a STEM discipline, while also recruiting those grant recipients to teach in high-needs schools with students from underrepresented populations in the STEM field.
Administrators say through the project’s first five years, close to $850,000 in scholarship money has been awarded to 41 EWU students — 34 of whom are either already teaching, or will be in the next year after completing their degrees and teaching preparation at EWU.
“Our goal in the Noyce grant proposal was 33 teachers, and that felt ambitious,” says Jacqueline Coomes, the associate dean of CSTEM who managed the first five years of the grant. “Given the challenges of COVID, which also caused some of our students to take extra quarters to graduate and made placements with mentors difficult, we will exceed the goal by one person.”
EWU worked with faculty from the Community Colleges of Spokane to recruit exceptional STEM majors for this project. Spokane Public Schools provided up to six mentor teachers in high-need schools per year for Noyce Scholars’ fieldwork. Candidates also volunteered in various STEM activities such as the Science Olympiad, completed professional development courses and attended conferences to enhance their skills.
Coomes says the program is achieving its objective of preparing STEM majors to continue teaching in high-needs schools. “Most of the Noyce Scholars who are teaching in high-need schools are enjoying their work and feel as if they were well-prepared to teach in these schools.”
This extensive, culturally-responsive teacher training has been a big win for K-12 students.
“Many high-need schools have high teacher turn-over rates and their students lack the same opportunities provided by well-prepared and experienced teachers,” says Coomes. “By training STEM students to teach in high-need schools, we prepare them to stay in those schools much longer, which benefits students in those schools.”
In addition to a one-year, no cost extension for the current grant – which will allow current students in the pipeline to finish the program, Coomes says EWU has successfully applied for a new five-year, $1.45 million Noyce grant that will run through 2027. Goals include recruiting and retaining a more diverse teaching force, and creating clear advising paths for community college students who transfer to EWU and efficiently participate in the Noyce project.
To learn more about the program and meet some of the outstanding scholars, visit https://inside.ewu.edu/noyce-scholar-project/