University of La Verne Receives Almost a Cool Million to Support Educating Future Science and Math Teachers

August 12, 2009
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Apollo 11 Astronaut Buzz Aldrin performs the original "moonwalk."

Apollo 11 Astronaut Buzz Aldrin performs the original "moonwalk."

Forty years ago the world watched in amazement as Americans Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became mankind’s first members to walk on the moon. Today, the basic foundation of that historic achievement – an interest in and understanding of science and mathematics – is missing in the youth of the nation that accomplished the feat.


As part of its ongoing effort to advance the quality of science and math education at the elementary and high school levels, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the University of La Verne a five-year, $899,746 Robert Noyce Teacher Scholars Program grant.


The NSF program’s goal is to encourage talented science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors and professionals to become K-12 science and math teachers. At La Verne, the grant will assist in providing education and training to prospective teachers. A majority of the grant ($721,400) will fund scholarships for future science and math teachers during their junior and senior years of college and the initial year of their teaching credential program. The remaining funds will support other initiatives, such as a series of informational workshops for prospective students.


“In the next 10 years, the United States is not going to have enough science teachers for the number of students enrolled in school,” said Christine Broussard, an associate professor of biology and the principal investigator of the grant. “If you have a society in which students do poorly in science and math, then the economy is affected and the entire society is affected. A society that is strong in science and mathematics is going to be very prosperous.”


Broussard also said many jobs in the industry have moved overseas and the U.S. is no longer No. 1 in science and math preparation and performance. Schools in a number of states, including California, rely on teachers to teach science and math even if it is outside their subject area. Schools also suffer when trained science and math teachers leave their positions.


As part of La Verne’s Noyce program, for each year a student receives a scholarship, he or she will be required to teach two years in an underserved or high-need school. So a three-year recipient agrees to teach six years.


“Our program also provides support to the new teachers even after they are done with training so that they will stay in their positions,” said Broussard.


With this latest grant, La Verne’s Natural Science Division has now received more than $5.1 million from the federal government over the past five years. The Noyce grant review committee cited La Verne’s longstanding excellence in the sciences and teacher education as factors in awarding the grant.


“We don’t want to just produce teachers. We want to produce scholars who have a very strong background in the sciences who are then passionate and become science and math teachers,” said Broussard. “Teaching is hard work, but all of us can remember at least one teacher who changed our lives. To me, it’s probably the noblest job there is.”

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