A five-year $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation is funding the education of University of West Florida students pursuing a middle- or high-school teaching career in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The funds will be enough for at least 18 STEM majors to become Robert Noyce Scholars and will pay for their costs to attend UWF during their junior and senior years, said Dr. John Pecore, an associate professor in the Department of Teacher Education and Educational Leadership.
To be eligible for the scholarships, students must have and maintain a minimum 2.75 GPA, must be enrolled in a UWF-Teach major as a junior or senior at the time of award, have a minimum grade of C- and submit two letters of recommendation.
Five scholarships totaling almost $60,000 have already been awarded to students in just the second year of the program. Those five award recipients have far exceeded the minimum GPA requirements with an average GPA of over 3.75, Pecore said.
“The goal is to fullfill the need for math and science teachers in the region,” Pecore said. “We’re working to recruit highly qualified majors into this program.”
UWF-Teach students graduate in four years with a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field and Florida professional teacher certification for grades 6-12.
Pecore said faculty begin recruiting students in freshman and sophomore years for the UWF-Teach program. Students also have to successfully complete the course, Exploring Inquiry Teaching, or an equivalent course and pass the General Knowledge Test of the Florida Teacher Certification Examinations to be eligible for the scholarships.
“The purpose of Exploring Inquiry Teaching is to really learn about education and what it’s like to be a teacher,” Pecore said. “What we try to do is help students to make an informed decision on whether they want to teach or not.”
Part of the course requires students to observe teachers in a classroom setting for between 15 to 30 hours. The grant funds stipends for those students’ travel.
Once the students complete that course, they are eligible for summer internships at locations such as the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station, the National Flight Academy and the Pensacola Mess Hall.
Pecore said, by the end of their sophomore year, students will decide whether they want to pursue the Noyce scholarships.
“Those students who do accept the scholarship portion commit to teach in a high-needs school district for two years for every year of (the scholarship) award,” he said.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant No. (1660615).
Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.