UTEP to receive $1.2M Grant, will help prepare future STEM Teachers

The University of Texas at El Paso will partner with the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) to foster the next generation of highly skilled STEM teachers through a five-year, $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

UTEP will receive support from the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, an NSF effort that helps address the critical need for K-12 teachers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics by encouraging talented students and professionals to pursue teaching careers in elementary and secondary schools.

The effort is being led by Amy Wagler, Ph.D., associate chair in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, who is the grant’s principal investigator.

“We are grateful for this opportunity from the National Science Foundation and the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program to develop curriculum and opportunities that will prepare our students for long-term success,” Wagler said.

“Beyond that, this will also bolster our region as more than 8,500 teachers in the El Paso area are UTEP graduates. Our faculty work diligently to ensure that curriculum aligns with the careers and challenges that graduates will face in the workforce. Through this grant and our partnership with EPISD, we can strengthen pathways that will guide our students to success and prepare them for the meaningful work that they will conduct when they graduate.”

Wagler will oversee the program’s evolution with co-PIs Erika Mein, Ph.D., associate dean for undergraduate studies and educator preparation in the College of Education; Jeffrey Olimpo, Ph.D., assistant professor of biological sciences; and Nora Paugh, Ph.D., assistant professor of instruction-teacher education in the College of Education.

UTEP, along with EPISD, will establish an innovative and transformative teacher preparation program, integrating Noyce Scholars into school sites currently implementing project-based learning with support from the New Tech Network (NTN), a national, nonprofit network for comprehensive pedagogical and cultural change in public school settings.

Specifically, the partnership will establish professional development school sites where pre-service STEM teachers learn theory and practice alongside University- and school-based faculty. The intention is to innovatively prepare and graduate knowledgeable STEM teachers who understand how learning theories inform meaningful and valuable instructional practices.

The program will continually pursue several goals. The first focuses on the recruitment, certification and retention of Noyce Scholars who are STEM undergraduate majors.

Furthermore, the program will aim to design and refine coursework and field-based teaching experiences to prepare Noyce Scholars to be effective teachers.

Thirty-six Noyce Scholars are expected to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in a STEM discipline and secondary STEM teaching certification and be fully prepared to teach in high-need school districts.