September 22, 2010


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Arleene Barrios
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The University of Texas at El Paso
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$1.2 Million Grant to Produce More Physics School Teachers

UTEP works to close science teacher shortage

Nationwide there are more than 20,000 physics teachers, but only a third have a degree in physics or physics education. The rest have taken at most a set of introductory courses, according to the American Physical Society.
 
The University of Texas at El Paso plans to improve those figures through a five-year, $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The funds will establish the Robert Noyce Scholarships for Teaching Miners.
 
The project will provide $10,000 scholarships annually for selected juniors and seniors majoring in science and mathematics who choose to pursue a minor in secondary education and seek a high school teacher certification in the sciences or mathematics.
 
“The need for more high school teachers in physics is especially dire in Texas because students now have to take four years of science, but there aren’t enough physics teachers,” said Eric A. Hagedorn, Ph.D., associate professor of physics, who will head the project.
 
UTEP will partner with the El Paso and Ysleta independent school districts to help prepare these future teachers. Upon completion of the program, the districts will hire the Noyce scholars and place them in the same high school in teams of at least two or three.
 
“The idea of placing them in teams is good because during the first few years, attrition is high, and they leave to work in industry. This gives them a support system,” Hagedorn said.
 
In addition to the support inherent in team placement, special district science and mathematics mentors, along with the UTEP faculty, will provide additional support and professional development for these new teachers.
 
The project also will provide stipends for selected first and second year science and mathematics students from UTEP and El Paso Community College to participate in a two-week summer internship where they will experience interdisciplinary and inquiry-based science and mathematics teaching and learning. The goal of this internship is to entice and inform science and mathematics students to consider a high school teaching career.
 
Other UTEP professors who will be involved with this program are Amy Wagler, Ph.D., assistant professor in mathematical sciences; Laura Serpa, Ph.D., professor in geological sciences; Olga Kosheleva, Ph.D., assistant professor in teacher education; and Ronald Wagler, Ph.D., assistant professor in teacher education.
 
The grant will provide scholarships to 42 students during a five-year period. The Ysleta Independent School District will match funds for half of the students.
 

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