Claremont Graduate University will use a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to help train 15 Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) teachers, with a focus on increasing the accessibility of STEM fields.
“We really want to prepare teachers that are prepared to go into high-needs schools and make a positive impact in those communities,” said Eddie Partida, the district coordinator for the Teacher Education Program at CGU. “It takes a special kind of teacher to be successful in those settings.”
Partida added that the university is seeking to train “teachers who are going to go into the classroom and really try to dispel the myth that certain students can’t learn or aren’t going to be able to be successful because of their language or their cultural background or their race.”
Partida said that STEM educators emerging from this program will also lead professional development after school, help other teachers “change the way they design instruction for their students” and conduct research and present at conferences.
DeLacy Ganley, the director of CGU’s teacher education program, said that the STEM grant is part of an initiative that CGU has been developing throughout the past decade in response to demand from the university’s K-12 partners, who “cannot stress enough how they need high-quality math and science teachers.”
The program that CGU will create with the grant will last six years. Students in the program will begin with a year-long residency at a local school with an experienced and accredited teacher, known as a ‘master teacher.’ The students, or teaching fellows, will not only share responsibility with the master teacher, but will also teach about half of the classes overall.
“What we expect is for the teaching fellow and the master teacher to gradually develop a co-teaching model,” Partida said.
Ganley said that the master teachers partnered with CGU will serve both to provide a fulfilling experience for the students in the program and also to expose the students to the wider mission of the program.
“[Teaching] can’t just be an academic or a theoretical discussion,” she said. “We really are mission-driven. We talk a lot about education as a civil rights issue and as a civil liberty. We want to make sure that the teachers that we partner with embody those ideals as well and know how to actionize them.”
Partida said that being mindful of diversity and of groups underrepresented in STEM fields is an “explicit goal of the project.” He said that research suggests that some members of these underrepresented groups do not enter STEM fields because they do not have role models in those careers.
“They might not see themselves as scientists; they might not see themselves as engineers,” Partida said.
At the end of the first year of the program, students will be expected to earn their master’s degree in education and their credential in either math or science teaching, as well as complete their residency. According to Partida, students are also required to undergo intensive certification, preparation and coursework in years one through three, with a shifting focus to professional development and research activities in years four and five. At the end of the program, students will receive help to earn their National Board certification.
The first cohort of seven students will begin the program this coming summer and enter their residency at the beginning of the next academic year. They will be followed a year later by an additional group of eight students.