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Educators and students will soon benefit from a $1.16 million Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program (Noyce) Grant awarded by the National Science Foundation to Upper Iowa University (UIU). In collaboration with Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC), the “Mentoring Awesome Science Teacher Education Recruits” (MASTER) project intends to better prepare 15 UIU All Science majors to teach in high-poverty, high-need, and rural schools. The participating undergraduates will be provided with early teaching experiences and training in mental health, mindfulness, and understanding poverty.

Barb Ehlers, UIU associate professor of education

“This project aims to serve the need of preparing highly effective STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teachers, and, more specifically, science teachers to serve in rural communities,” said UIU associate professor of education Barb Ehlers Ehlers, who serves as the project director. “The project will actively recruit students from rural communities to enter and stay in college with the goal of becoming certified secondary STEM teachers who are prepared to remain teaching in rural schools.”

Paul Skrade, UIU assistant professor of biology

“The Noyce interns and scholars will receive valuable experience in science education through summer internships and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and math) camps as well as through participation in workshops and seminars aimed at preparing them to teach in high-need school districts,” added UIU assistant professor of biology Paul Skrade.

Also contributing to this more recent grant project’s successful application were UIU associate professor of psychology Melinda Heinz, NICC chemistry instructor Jeremy Durelle and NICC science instructor Matthew Simon.

The program will recruit high school, community college, and college students to complete a baccalaureate science degree and earn teaching certification. UIU juniors and seniors, majoring in All Science with teacher certification are eligible for scholarships worth $10,000-$22,000 per year. The partnership with NICC allows community college transfer students to qualify for the scholarships for their junior and senior years at UIU.

The UIU and NICC collaboration includes partnerships with 16 northeast Iowa school districts (Allamakee, Central, Clayton Ridge, East Buchanan, Eastern Allamakee, Edgewood-Colesburg, MFL-MarMac, North Fayette Valley, Oelwein, Postville, South Winneshiek, Starmont, Sumner-Fredericksburg, Tripoli, Turkey Valley, and West Central), with the goal of establishing a recruitment pipeline of qualified STEM teachers in high-need schools or school districts, particularly in high-poverty rural areas.

The MASTER project is supported through the Noyce Program. Noyce supports talented STEM undergraduate majors and professionals to become effective K-12 STEM teachers and experienced, exemplary K-12 teachers to become STEM master teachers in high-need school districts. It also supports research on the persistence, retention, and effectiveness of K-12 STEM teachers in high-need school districts.

The $1.16 million award is the largest grant received in UIU’s recent history. UIU was the recipient of a $800,00 Iowa Department of Transportation grant in 2012 for the construction of a UIU/Fayette community bike trail and a $660,000 National Science Foundation Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) grant in 2015. The 2015 award was used to help fund seven scholarships to UIU freshman in 2017 and 2018. The grant funds were also used by the University to research and strengthen STEM-related educational and programming opportunities — not only for UIU but all educational institutions.

To learn more about the MASTER project, contact Ehlers at 563.425.5322 or [email protected], or Skrade at 563.425.5222 or [email protected]. To learn more about UIU and its All Science major program, visit uiu.edu.