USC Upstate Announces $1.2 Million NSF Grant to Expand Opportunities for STEM Teachers

June 19, 2020 at 1:20 pm

The University of South Carolina Upstate, in partnership with Spartanburg Community College (SCC) and Spartanburg County schools, will seek to address a need for highly qualified mathematics and science teachers through a new $1.2 million National Science Foundation (NSF) Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program grant.

The five-year grant will fund the project “Bridging Pathways for the Preparation of Highly Qualified Mathematics and Science Teachers,” which will provide scholarships to 21 USC Upstate students pursuing a dual undergraduate degree in mathematics, biology or chemistry and secondary education.

Students participating in the project will each receive a $11,688 scholarship each year for three of their five years of study beginning in their junior year. Additionally, there will be three different internship experiences available for students at USC Upstate and SCC to work with middle and high school students. The implementation of the grant will begin Oct. 1, 2020.

“We are overjoyed to receive this highly competitive grant,” said Dr. Stephen Bismarck, associate professor of Middle Level/Secondary Mathematics Education at USC Upstate and the principal investigator for the project. “The intent of the NSF Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program is to encourage talented science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors and professionals to become mathematics and science teachers, which is greatly needed in the Upstate of South Carolina.”

Bismarck said the project will have two cohorts. Ten students will be selected as Noyce scholars in July 2021, and 11 students will be selected in July 2022. Current students will be eligible, he said. Grant funds not used for scholarships will be applied to internship stipends and conference travel expenses for the scholars, and compensation for project team members.

“We believe these experiences will act as a catalyst for additional STEM majors to seriously consider the teaching profession,” he said. “This opportunity will allow these highly qualified teachers to enter the profession with little to no debt.”

Once Noyce scholars graduate and are hired by a school, USC Upstate will require them to attend monthly pedagogical seminars throughout the school year and summer during the first two years of their teaching careers. The seminars will focus on addressing the socio-emotional needs and challenges facing high-need schools.

“This grant underscores our efforts to support area districts and infuse our region with more highly qualified math and science teachers,” said Dr. Laura Reynolds, dean of USC Upstate’s School of Education, Human Performance and Health.

“Grant funding and activities will encourage and provide opportunities for USC Upstate STEM majors to become interested and involved in working with kids and youth and will allow Upstate to support middle and high school students in math and science through STEM camps and intensive tutoring,” Reynolds added. “Additionally, this grant will not only support USC Upstate students as Noyce scholars while they’re in college, but continue to provide them support throughout their first two years of teaching. We are thrilled!”

Co-principal investigators on the project are USC Upstate faculty members Dr. Chris Bender, associate professor of chemistry, Dr. Kimberly Shorter, assistant professor of biology, Ryan Harper, mathematics instructor and director of tutoring, and Nancy Addison, adjunct instructor.

SCC faculty members participating in the project are Sarah Kitts, Dr. Brandon Kinley, and Linda Schmidt.

Dorman High School and High Point Academy will be part of the project, but activities for the grant will be open to all Spartanburg County school districts, Bismarck said.

“As a former high school teacher for five years, I am always excited to see opportunities where our terrific local schools and USC Upstate can work together on a project,” said USC Upstate Provost David Schecter. “This one is particularly unique, with its focus on STEM fields, and we could not be more excited to provide this program to our students.”

Interested students are asked to email sbismarck@uscupstate.edu.

For more information about the project, please visit www.uscupstate.edu/research/noyce-scholars/.