NSF funds new science teacher pipeline.news center

$1.2M Grant Supports Scholarships, Mentoring and Professional Development for Aspiring Educators

During a teacher recruitment call with a school district administrator, Donna Ross I often hear a sense of hopelessness when the topic turns to a particular subject.

“At the end of the summer, we get panicked calls asking about chemistry and physics,” says Ross, an associate professor of science education at San Diego State University. If you have one physics student, you’ll be lucky in the methods course.”

Far from a local problem. California has been facing a statewide teacher shortage for years, with science teachers being one of the most critical needs.

Funded by a new $1.2 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, the SDSU faculty team will fill the gap by building a pipeline of highly qualified, social justice-minded science educators. is working on The Noyce Scholars and Interns Program provides scholarships, mentorship, and professional development to science majors entering university teacher qualification programs.

“Increasing the number of science majors in our certification program is important to our local schools and to all K-12 students who need highly qualified teachers. It’s good for you.” Meredith Vaughan and assistant professor Kathleen Schenkel from the Faculty of Teacher Education, and David PullmanAssociate Professor of Physical Chemistry.

Over the five years of the grant, 41 qualified students will receive $15,000 in scholarships, contingent on continuing to teach in high-need districts. If the student does not meet this requirement, the scholarship will revert to loan.

Recruitment is ongoing for the first cohort of Noyce Scholars, and only students currently enrolled in SDSU’s Teacher Qualification Program and who already have a science degree are eligible to apply.

In the future, recruitment efforts will be strengthened to attract undergraduate and graduate students in the fields of biology, chemistry, earth sciences, engineering and physics. To enhance outreach to these majors, the program will launch an internship program next summer. In this program, participants can gain experience teaching science from her 5th grade through her 8th grade at his summer camp hosted by non-profit partner Hands On Technology (HoT).

The professional development component of the program brings technology into the classroom, focuses on training in social justice-oriented science education, and engages diverse student populations through community-relevant science.

“We look for issues that are relevant and meaningful to our students, teach them the science behind the issues, and explore ways to bring about positive change,” says Ross. “It really engages and motivates kids in a way that it wouldn’t otherwise.”

“Supporting new teachers who have completed the program is an important component,” she added. “The more we support novice teachers, the more likely we are to retain them.”

This is SDSU’s second NSF-funded Noyce Scholars program aimed at getting more science majors into teaching. The first, awarded in 2014, increased the number of science majors in university qualification programs by 63%.

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