National Science Foundation approves SIUE’s request for scholarship program

More than 20 students per year, for five years, will receive first-hand experience in the classroom and monetary support to further careers in teaching science due to SIUE being approved for the National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Scholarship Program.

Biological sciences professor Kelly Barry, who helped research for the award, said it will fund internships for 10 students and offer scholarship funds to 12 students per year over the course of five years. Students who receive funding or internships through the award will emerge from their endeavors with first-hand experience, observation and coping strategies, according to Barrry.

“When these people go into the schools, they’ll be prepared…,” Barry said. “Student teaching will be duck soup to them because they will already have been doing so much teaching.”

Sharon Locke, director of the STEM Center, said SIUE’s STEM Center has a lot of programs and services that, as a proposal author, she felt Noyce scholars could get involved with.

“[The projects at the STEM Center] would give them additional teaching experience and the National Science Foundation is looking to graduate science teachers that really have a strong practical experience before they start their new teaching job, so we have programs here that help for that,” Locke said.

One program Noyce scholars could be involved in is a volunteer program called MOSAIC, or Minds on Science Activities in the Community – an outreach program for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Students collect data, complete a design problem and are taught about asking questions, according to Locke.

“We go into after school programs or we go into K through 12 classrooms and we do about a 90-minute lesson that’s very hands on,” Locke said. “[MOSAIC is] designed to get the students interested in science and excited about science.”

The internship aspect of the award is open to freshmen and sophomore students. Students who receive the internships will be awarded $2,500, according to Barry. Juniors and seniors are eligible for “very generous scholarships,” according to Barry, which are for $11,500 per year.

One of the main aspects of the grant, according to Barry, is self-efficacy in teaching.

“You’ve got to feel good and feel confident in order to do this,” Barry said, “especially if you’re going into a challenging school district.”

School of Education professor Jessica Krim, who helped research for the award, said students will be placed in high needs areas around Southern Illinois because it is a requirement of the grant to focus on such areas. The investigators have made contact with at least 10 school districts, according to Krim.

Barry said the award will make pre-professional and pre-medical professional students aware of teaching as a career options “very early in their career” at SIUE.

“It’ll make [teaching as a career] attractive to them,” Barry said. “It will increase our pool of quality teachers in the community, which will really benefit all of Southern Illinois.”

The significance of the award, in addition to monetary assistance, is “a real career direction that provides [students] a lot of reinforcement and support along the way,” according to Barry.

The result of the award will be 30 to 40 teachers being “supremely qualified” to enter the workforce and “teach STEM in urban schools that are in dire straits as well as rural schools that really need these resources.”

Barry said the award will allow SIUE to build “a network of teachers” in the Southern Illinois community, while also keeping in mind that students the university is drawing more students from Northern Illinois.

The grant strengthens SIUE’s reputation for preparing highly qualified science teachers who, according to Locke, “are well prepared to work in sometimes challenging schools.”

Preparation for the award began in January and was a roughly five-month process.

Barry said researching and applying for the award was a joint effort between the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Education and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Center.

The Noyce program “provides funding to institutions of higher education to provide scholarships, stipends, and programmatic support to recruit and prepare STEM majors and professionals to become K-12 teachers” and “seeks to increase the number of K-12 teachers with strong STEM content knowledge who teach in high-need school districts,” according to the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program website.

Krim was the principal investigator in proposing that SIUE receive the award. Chemistry professor Sue Wiediger was also involved in the proposal.

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