COLLEGE PARK — A total of $296,041 in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) was awarded for a collaborative project between the University of Maryland College Park, Montgomery College and Prince George’s Community College to train Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) educators on Aug. 7.
Congressmen Steny H. Hoyer announced the funding (MD-05) along with Anthony Brown (MD-04) and Jamie Raskin (MD-08) and Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
“Passionate,well-prepared teachers are crucial to our students’ success,” the senators and congressmen said in a joint statement. “We need educators who can champion STEM learning and engage our students on these important subjects.
“This funding will foster an essential partnership between three of Maryland’s great institutions of higher education and will bolster our state’s efforts to recruit and train STEM teachers,” they continued.
“In Congress, we will continue working on expanding resources for STEM education and on ensuring our students and teachers have the tools they need to succeed.”
The joint venture allows the schools to push for three different initiatives when it comes to STEM educators, encouraging students to consider a career as a STEM teacher, increasing awareness of STEM teaching as an option and creating pathways from community college courses into university STEM teacher preparation programs.
The idea originally started through the University of Maryland’s Terrapin Teachers program where its mission is to increase the number of science and math teachers they produce to address the local and national shortage of STEM educators, said Terrapin Teachers Associate Director Anisha Campbell.
“The University of Maryland had a secondary STEM certification pathway that transformed in 2014 because we took all the Uteach model that originated at UT Austin,” Campbell said. “Once we did that, we’ve been working on increasing our numbers of STEM teachers that we produce each year.”
At the University of Maryland, they offer Terrapin Teachers introductory recruitment courses for STEM education majors at Montgomery College and Prince George’s Community College, which serves as an introduction to STEM education.
The Terrapin Teachers program targets undergraduates, people who are changing careers and paraprofessionals.
The school also assists the community college students in making the transfer to UMD when they decide to pursue STEM education.
At Montgomery College, they offer several programs that students interested in STEM education can get involved in, including Early College for High School Math Teachers and Learning Assistants for STEM math educators.
“The need for qualified STEM secondary level teachers continues to be great, and we are optimistic that these efforts will expand our pipeline from Montgomery College to the teaching field,” said Montgomery College Professor of Mathematics and Director of Teacher Education Partnerships Deborah Poese.
A national issue, particularly in STEM education, the current teacher shortage has been caused primarily by layoffs during the Great Recession, a growing student population and fewer people enrolling in teacher preparation programs, says the Learning Policy Institute.
Factors such as wages, working conditions and attrition rates also contribute to the shortage, although they vary by state. Schools in high-poverty and high-minority locations are especially affected.
In the STEM field, 42 states plus Washington, D.C. reported a shortage in mathematics teachers during the 2015-2016 school year and 40 states and the District reported a shortage in science.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, Maryland reported teacher shortages in the subjects of computer science, mathematics, physics and chemistry during the 2016-2017 school year.
UMD has a goal of producing 40 STEM teachers per year and currently graduate just over 20 of them. Campbell pointed to misinformation about the teaching profession as one of the reasons that people are less likely to become STEM teachers such as low salary.
Part of the STEM education program includes making changes in the mindset of the teachers and how they teach their classes to make a lasting change in how the subjects are taught in schools. At the Terrapin Teachers program, one of the main things they try to stress is inquiry-based lessons.
They also incorporate looking at equity, diversity and social justice in the classroom.