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Scholarship helps shape future of Ariz. science education


February 18, 2011

Arizona State University STARR Noyce Scholars come from all ends of the student spectrum, from professionals looking for a career change in education, to students who have always wanted to be science teachers, to people interested in giving back by teaching science in underserved communities. But while their backgrounds are diverse, they all have a similar desire to be excellent teachers in a field where enthusiasm and quality have traditionally been lacking.

Both undergraduate and graduate students who are working on or have previously obtained a science degree and are enrolling in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College are eligible for the STARR Noyce Scholarship, which offers recipients up to $17,000 each year for tuition and living costs. While in college, STARR Noyce Scholars complete student teaching at local high-need schools and work to obtain teacher certification. When they are not immersed in classrooms, they have the option to attend various conferences for science teachers and participate in a multitude of other programs available only to Robert Noyce Scholars nationwide.

Upon graduation, recipients of the National Science Foundation-funded scholarship are required to teach for at least two years in a high-need middle or high school while receiving face-to-face and e-mentoring, a $1,500 need-based new teacher starter kit, and a two-year membership to the National Science Teachers Association.

Julie Luft, a professor of science education at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and the School of Life Sciences, and Steven Semken, associate professor of Geoscience Education and Geological Sciences at the School of Earth and Space Exploration, are the project’s principal investigators.

“The STARR Noyce scholars represent the future of science education in Arizona,” Luft says. “They’ve come to the profession of science teaching with a strong knowledge base, and they are enhancing those experiences by participating in our undergraduate and TEAMS programs.”

Suzanne Cassano, the STARR Noyce specialist working with Luft and Semken notes that the STARR Noyce program not only provides financial support while scholars earn their degrees and teaching certificates, but it also helps to build a community that will ensure they are supported as new teachers.

There are currently 16 students in the program. Nine students have graduated and are working in schools and receiving continued support. Scholarship funding is available for a new crop of STARR Noyce Scholars, and preference is given to early applicants. Upcoming dates and locations for scheduled STARR Noyce Scholarship information sessions can be found online at http://education.asu.edu/noyce. 

The following profiles several noteworthy STARR Noyce Scholars who exemplify traits as ideal recipients of the scholarship program.

Nathan Glover

When he isn’t working with students at McClintock High School in Tempe, Nathan Glover is hard at work finishing his last semester at ASU, specializing in Earth and Space Science and Secondary Education in The School of Earth and Space Exploration and Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. As an out-of-state student following several years of service as a U.S. Marine Sergeant and educator, Glover faced unique challenges in funding his education while making time for student teaching and internships. When he learned about the STARR Noyce Scholarship, Nathan jumped at the opportunity.

“With the help of this scholarship I am in a more practical position to realize my dream of becoming an educator,” Glover says.

Come May, that dream will almost certainly be a reality. During his undergraduate studies, Glover completed all his student internships with McClintock High School and is currently completing his student teaching there in a freshman chemistry/physics class. In addition to the financial support he has received while finishing his studies, Nathan was one of two ASU STARR Noyce Scholars awarded the opportunity to be a part of the University of Michigan’s INSPIRE program in 2010. The program provides Noyce Scholars from across the country a chance to go to China as part of a 10-week research program designed to introduce internationalization and bring research experiences back to the U.S. to share with their future students.

“I feel extremely privileged to have been invited to the initial trial to bring future science teachers to work in advanced scientific laboratories around the world,” Glover explains. “As most of my experience in science has been outside of the laboratory the chance to partake in organized group experiments has been enlightening.”

Beyond their hands-on lab experience with the INSPIRE program, the Noyce Scholars also experience some of China’s main cultural attractions. The summer following his first year teaching, Glover and the other participants will return to China to revisit and resume their international research experience, and work on an instructional development proposal to create teaching materials for use in their classroom. He will also be able to interact with teachers and students in Beijing classrooms, forming contacts for future collaborations. Until then, Glover looks forward to bringing his passion to the classroom at a school in need of quality science teachers, an area that he says he never realized would be a good place for someone with his skills before becoming a STARR Noyce Scholar.

“Prior to being awarded the Noyce Scholarship I may have overlooked the high need schools and gone directly to an institution less in true need of my skills.  I look forward to a long and prosperous career helping students learn the fundamentals of science and the world around them,” he says.

Ayesha Brewster

After graduating in May 2010, Ayesha Brewster knew that she wanted to work in a rural, high-need school. So when she was offered a teaching position at a school on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, Ayesha knew it would be a good fit and she accepted.

“I’ve always been attracted to teaching in rural schools,” Brewster says. “I went to a rural school. Sometimes rural schools are overlooked and I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t overlook them when I became a teacher.”

When Brewster came to ASU for her Master’s degree after graduating from Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University with a B.S. in biology, she was able to synthesize her studies with the help of the STARR Noyce Scholarship. In addition to the opportunity to attend numerous science education conferences and network with other participants, she built a solid set of contacts that she has been able to call upon during her first year teaching.

“By receiving the STARR Noyce Scholarship, I have a support system of other educators that I am able to reach out to for support during my first few years teaching,” Brewster said. Those contacts came in handy when Brewster found out she was assigned to teach both biology and chemistry classes to 10th, 11th and 12th grade students just a week before classes started.

“I had no background in teaching chemistry,” Brewster recalls. “I reached out to my mentors and other scholars as well for advice on teaching chemistry and how to run a chemistry class.”

The hard work paid off. Because Brewster’s students had little to no real science background, they were mainly driven by her desire for their success. She says these challenges are a positive force on her teaching because her students are “very inquisitive and very excited about learning about the environment they live in” and are particularly fascinated by how their understanding of their environment relates to her class.

She fosters interest in the subject by introducing new concepts to her students in a way that is applicable to their understanding of the world.

“I try to relate every lesson to their lives and we discuss how the different concepts they learn in class can be helpful to their lives,” Brewster explains. “My hope for my students is to become aware of the world they live in and become an advocate for it. I want them to see what kind of impact they can make on the world just by taking biology and chemistry.”

Alise Kraus

For more than 10 years, Alise Kraus had lived and worked on four continents as a corporate executive for an international engineering and manufacturing organization. After a corporate restructuring, she decided to finally fulfill her desire to teach and began investigating schools in the United States in greatest need of competent science teachers and was drawn to Arizona.

“I knew this was where I wanted to go” she says of her passion for teaching, and chose to come to Arizona because she had never been to the state. Kraus moved to Arizona and discovered what she needed to do before heading back to school to obtain a teaching degree.

Kraus had planned to take a year off before making her decision and attended an orientation for the TEAMS program — Teacher Education for Arizona Math and Science — at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. There she learned about the STARR Noyce Scholarship.

“I was so excited because you kind of feel alone sometimes at ASU and then you go out into teaching, it’s a very difficult transition,” Kraus said. For her, all the connections the STARR Noyce Scholarship offered were essential because “you have a community, a support system, mentors, and you have a network that is going to be with you.”

Because Kraus’s bachelor’s degree is in mechanical engineering from Purdue University, her participation in the TEAMS program allows her to incorporate her existing studies into her education certification and degree while also learning to specialize in secondary physics. The accelerated 14-month TEAMS program is helping Alise to realize her dream of teaching quickly. She recently completed working with a general science class at Copper Ridge Middle School, her final step before beginning her student teaching.

Initially, Kraus wasn’t sure if she wanted to teach middle school students, but her experience with her mentor teacher Barbara Reinert completely changed her mind.

“I never thought I would enjoy seventh graders, but it has been a fantastic experience,” she said. “I have really enjoyed it and was pleasantly surprised.”

For her student teaching, Kraus is looking forward to teaching physics or engineering at the Bioscience High School in Phoenix and being around students who excel in science and will enter the field much like she did.

Sienna Silva

It’s almost a family tradition for women in the Silva family to go into education, and Sienna Silva is hoping to follow in the footsteps of both her mother and sister by becoming a teacher. An Arizona native, Sienna was lucky enough to have the opportunity to complete her first block of observations in the same school district that she attended while growing up in Avondale.

Although she is majoring in secondary education, Silva was placed into a class at Copper Trails Elementary School so she could have the opportunity to observe a general science class. Beyond her observations, the STARR Noyce Scholarship program has paid for her membership in the National Science Teachers Association and for her attendance at a conference in Phoenix last year. Additionally, as a Noyce Scholar, Silva joined STARR Noyce Scholar Nathan Glover as part of the University of Michigan’s INSPIRE group and spent a good part of last summer in China working with professionals in various scientific fields and in a biology lab.

Between her in-class experiences and the chance to network with other like-minded professionals at conferences, Silva says she feels that her students will have an advantage because of her knowledge and support system.

“With all these experiences solely due to my involvement with the scholarship, I believe my classroom will have a competitive edge in learning biology,” she says. Silva will also incorporate visual aids and hands-on activities to engage students who may have difficulty with English as a second language due to her experience as a foreign student in China, which she attributes to “really opening my eyes to how hard it is to obtain a second language, especially at an older age.”

Like all STARR Noyce undergraduate scholars, Silva is majoring in both science and education at ASU; she is obtaining concurrent degrees in biology and secondary education and ultimately hopes to teach biology to high school students.

Before graduating in December 2011, Silva will complete her final two blocks of observation and student teaching at Westview High School in Tolleson, close to her home in Goodyear. Once she finishes, Sienna is eager to teach and has already been thinking of better ways to engage her future students by using the tools she has learned as a STARR Noyce Scholar combined with advice from her trusted contacts.

“I hope to continue communication with every person I have met so far and establish relationships with them to better my classroom,” Silva says. “It is an honor and a privilege to be awarded this scholarship. The opportunities it has offered me are endless.”

Applications for the scholarship are accepted each semester with a limited number of scholarships available. More information and applications for the scholarship are available online: http://education.asu.edu/noyce.

ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College offers world class academic programs for educators and scholars preparing to enter or advance in the profession. Teachers College provides challenging education programs to prepare successful and highly qualified PreKindergarten-12th grade teachers as well as programs for those interested in advanced study and research activities leading to careers in school leadership, school and educational psychology, education policy, education technology, higher and post-secondary education, and many other fields. ASU’s graduate programs in education are consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report as among the nation’s best.  For more information, visit http://education.asu.edu.

By Lauren Proper, lauren.proper@asu.edu