Grant aims to support STEM teacher preparation in Alaska

<i>Photo by Ute Kaden</i><br>Participants at a professional development seminar at the UA Museum of the North explore herbarium specimens.
Photo by Ute Kaden
Participants in a professional development seminar at the UA Museum of the North explore herbarium specimens.

A University of Alaska faculty team will develop a new scholarship program to support Alaskans who want to become secondary science, technology, engineering and math teachers.

A $74,000 National Science Foundation grant will allow the team to build the plan for a Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program at the University of Alaska. The program will provide full scholarships to support Alaska STEM majors as they earn their teaching certificates.

“Students tell us over and over again that they need financial support for enrolling in a full-time teacher education program,” said Ute Kaden, one of the project leads and chair of the University of Alaska Fairbanks secondary education program. “Currently there are little to no funds available to support students who want to become teachers in Alaska.”

The state has a large number of small rural schools that grapple with high teacher turnover and an increasing demand for STEM instructors. Rural schools often have only one teacher responsible for teaching all the STEM subjects across multiple grade levels.

Kaden said the state needs innovative ways to increase the number of Alaska-educated STEM teachers. The team’s plan will draw on teacher preparation and STEM experts throughout the UA system to ensure that people who want to become teachers can get the educational resources they need at their home universities.

“This collaborative approach built on the expertise and resources of all three UA campuses will be sustainable and attractive,” Kaden said. “It has the potential to increase the number of Alaska-educated STEM teachers in a fiscally responsible, non-disruptive way.”

Other project leads include Steffi Ickert-Bond from the University of Alaska Museum of the North and Deborah Lo and Virgil Fredenberg from the University of Alaska Southeast.

The team will study successful programs at other universities, such as the UTeach program at the University of Texas at Austin. The model started in 1997 as a student-focused way to recruit STEM majors and prepare them to become teachers. Now in its 20th year, Ickert-Bond said, UTeach has been implemented at 44 universities in 21 states and the District of Columbia.

ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Ute Kaden at 907-474-5721 or via email at ukaden@alaska.edu. Steffi Ickert-Bond at 907-747-6277 or via email at smickertbond@alaska.edu.

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