Tennessee lacks grade school teachers, especially in math and science, but two professors at Tennessee Tech University are doing their part to offset the shortage.
The National Science Foundation recently awarded TTU physics professor Steve Robinson and mathematics education professor Holly Anthony a $1.1 million grant to encourage TTU science, technology, engineering and math majors to get their teaching licenses.
“There are some school districts that don’t even offer some of the sciences,” Robinson said. “We need to have the best teachers we possibly can in our schools and this is a way of producing well-prepared teachers in these subject areas.”
The grant, to be issued over a five-year period, will create 24 teachers to help fill the void in the state’s classrooms. The money will go to scholarships, internships and memberships to professional organizations to help TTU students transition to teaching after graduation. The program will partner with schools in Fentress, Jackson, Overton, Pickett and Putnam counties to give TTU students experience in the classroom.
Students in the program will work on their STEM bachelor’s degrees, then return to TTU for a one-year post-baccalaureate program in education. During the last year of the program, they will sit for the state’s teacher certification exams.
“Students’ success in STEM begins with their teachers,” Anthony said. “The training of STEM teachers is crucial in this era of rigorous standards and high accountability.”
Opportunities to help with programs at TTU’s Millard Oakley STEM Center also will be available to STEM majors who consider enrolling in the program. TTU sophomores, juniors and seniors will be eligible for the program. Robinson and Anthony are working with individual academic departments so the extra courses will count as electives toward a STEM major to keep students’ graduation dates on schedule.
After five years, the pair said they hope to renew the grant and continue the program.
“TTU is a great place to do this work because we have a large pool of people in these disciplines from which to draw,” Robinson said. “We are the tech school of Tennessee.”