Scholarship program to help prepare STEM teachers

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Dalton State College has received a National Science Foundation grant that will provide nearly $1.2 million during the next five years. Dalton State will use the funds to recruit and train 22 STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students to become middle and high school teachers. Pictured is Lupe Lopez, a STEM major who has since graduated, working with students during a summer camp at the college.

Anna Bramblett was nearing the end of her time as a chemistry student at Dalton State College when a new opportunity presented itself.

She was recently awarded a scholarship that will cover her tuition and living expenses to become a certified secondary chemistry teacher.

Dalton State will receive approximately $1.2 million during the next five years as part of the National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program. The Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program is focused on recruiting, preparing and retaining teachers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The program will benefit Dalton State students while also addressing the critical need for highly qualified, certified STEM teachers.

Dalton State will use the funds to recruit and train 22 STEM students to become middle and high school teachers. It is a joint project on campus between the School of Education and the School of Arts and Sciences. Dalton State also partnered with Shaw Industries, Mohawk Industries, Dalton Public Schools and Whitfield County Schools.

“I was originally going to graduate in fall 2021 with my chemistry degree, but now I decided to continue my education as a Noyce Scholar to also obtain my secondary education certification,” Bramblett said. “I have been thinking about becoming a high school chemistry teacher for a while now. As I think many college students experience, I was nearing graduation and was still uncertain about what I might do. This sounds like an incredible opportunity, so I decided to go for it.”

Bramblett, along with Marie Coffey, Blake Larmon and Darren Otts, are Dalton State’s first recipients of the scholarship. Their tuition and living expenses will be covered their junior and senior years of college, and they will receive a stipend while participating in community service and an externship. They will also receive additional mentorships and guidance.

“The majority of the funds we’re receiving go directly to the student scholarships,” said Sharon Hixon, dean of the School of Education. “It’s really hard for education students to work a job, but many do. For secondary education students, they are taking their content classes, and they are in the field up to 15 hours a week. We didn’t want our students to miss out on enriching opportunities outside of the classroom because they needed to work.”

As Noyce Scholars, students will be required to participate in an externship at Shaw or Mohawk to learn more about how classroom concepts are applied directly to advanced manufacturing. They will also participate in community programs, such as area schools’ STEM family nights or summer camps. For every year students receive the scholarship, they promise to teach for two years at a high-needs school or they will have to pay the scholarship back.

“The Noyce Scholarship will be very beneficial to me,” Bramblett said. “I will get the training and experience teachers need. I will also be able to experience the chemical industry locally through an externship through Shaw or Mohawk. So, I will be well-rounded. I also won’t have to worry about as many expenses, which I am grateful for. This scholarship will shape my future, and I could not have this opportunity without it.”

Coffey is a math major planning to graduate in spring 2023 who saw the Noyce Scholarship as a good opportunity for her future career, but also to help the community.

“This will help me in my career because it will give me experience in the classroom and in various programs throughout the community,” she said. “It will create a supportive network for me as well. I am extremely grateful to be in the first group of Noyce Scholars and cannot wait to see where this program leads me.”

Scholarship recipients will participate in STEM-related activities outside of the classroom because it is important for them to immerse themselves in their community to see how their students live, Hixon said.

“We want our students involved in the community so they will see it is valuable and continue to do so once they graduate,” Hixon said. “The interaction outside of the classroom is so important. We want them to understand their students’ lives by interacting with families at an event, such as a family night at a school.”

The externship at a local industry will also help students connect with industry leaders and professionals.

“We are excited to partner with Dalton State,” said Brian Cooksey, director of workforce development for Shaw. “Having highly qualified k-12 science and mathematics teachers who understand content and pedagogy, as well as the advanced manufacturing environment, is critically important to developing the skilled workforce for our country and region. Through the externship, the teacher candidates will understand the need for science, technology, engineering and mathematics in our industry, as well as career opportunities that align with these fields. We look forward to engaging with these teacher candidates during their externships and supporting them as they transition into local classrooms upon graduating from Dalton State.”

“This is an excellent opportunity for our STEM students who are interested in becoming teachers,” said Randall Griffus, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. “They will be supported here at the college, in the school systems and in local industry. This will allow them to build a network of people who can support and assist them.”

The funds will also pay for training for mentors and coaches to assist students as they go through the education program.

Noyce Scholars also will receive funds to continue community service after they graduate. For example, they can use the funds to host a STEM night for families at the school where they’re hired after graduation.

To better serve their communities, Noyce Scholars are required to complete the English Language Learners endorsement, which is nine additional credit hours that will be covered by the scholarship.

“They’re going to have more education coursework and professional development than a typical secondary teacher coming out of our program,” Hixon said. “But they have additional support during and after the program. This program is built to help our students be successful while in the program and once they are hired in schools after graduation.”

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