Preparing Future Math Teachers
Cal State Fullerton Receives $2.5 Million National Science Foundation Grant
August 31, 2010
By Debra Cano Ramos
Future middle school and high school mathematics teachers will get support and guidance at Cal State Fullerton thanks to a $2.5 million National Science Foundation grant.
The grant underwrites a six-year project to recruit students with science, technology, engineering and mathematics backgrounds seeking to become teachers of mathematics, as well as identify experienced math educators to become student teacher mentors within their schools and districts.
“Our schools need excellent teachers who are well prepared to teach math. This grant award will help the College of Education and university continue to recruit top students with strong backgrounds in the STEM disciplines and prepare them to be the among the best teachers of mathematics,” said Claire Cavallaro, dean of the College of Education.
The Fullerton Mathematics Teacher and Master Teacher Fellows project is a collaboration between the colleges of Education and Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Partners are Santa Ana College, Anaheim Union High School District, Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
Martin V. Bonsangue, professor of mathematics; Mark Ellis, chair and associate professor of secondary education; and Ruth Yopp-Edwards, professor of elementary and bilingual education, are leading the project.
Last year, NSF awarded a $75,000 grant to Bonsangue, Ellis, Yopp-Edwards and Victoria B. Costa, director of science education and professor of secondary education, to research and develop the full project proposal.
STEM faculty members from both the university and Santa Ana College will be involved with teaching graduate-level programs, professional development activities and mentoring of experienced and future teachers.
“This project brings together a partnership serving high-need, primarily Latino-serving schools in the greater Orange County area,” Bonsangue explained. “We hope to tap into college STEM majors and career-changers who might not have otherwise considered teaching math as a career.”
The project reflects Cal State Fullerton’s heightened emphasis on increasing student interest in the STEM fields — one of seven universitywide initiatives for 2010-11.
“This grant continues recent efforts to increase collaboration between the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and the College of Education and it strengthens the university’s partnership with local school districts," said Robert A. Koch, acting dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.
“Because these school districts draw from a highly diverse student pool, the program’s focus on enhancing the preparation of master teachers will have a dramatic impact on the number of students from diverse backgrounds that will be prepared to enter the university and to choose STEM majors, in general, and a mathematics major, in particular.”
A total of 20 STEM majors will be selected for the project. The first class of 10 teaching fellows — recruited from Cal State Fullerton, Santa Ana College and other universities — begin prerequisite classes this spring and the teacher credential program next fall, said Ellis. Additionally, mid-career changers with STEM backgrounds will be considered.
Each fellow will initially receive a $10,000 scholarship, then continue to receive an additional $10,000 annually for up to four years while participating in the project and serving as a teacher in a school district that serves a large population of low-income students, Ellis said.
The fellows will earn a teaching credential in math and then a master’s in education with a concentration in secondary education-teaching foundational mathematics, participate in summer professional development activities and receive mentoring and support throughout the school year.
“Teaching fellows commit to the project for five years, and over this time, we’re not only developing knowledgeable, competent mathematics teachers, but future leaders in education,” Ellis added.
The project’s cornerstone is that 10 highly experienced math teachers from the two participating school districts will serve as master teaching fellows to mentor the teacher candidates, Ellis said. The master teaching fellows will provide support to the future teachers throughout credential and master’s programs, as well as during their first three years in the classroom to help them develop their teaching effectiveness and leadership skills.
These select teachers will receive $10,000 annual stipends and attend professional development activities to develop their skills as mentor teachers and educational leaders.
Activities will include workshops and support to achieve National Board certification through the College of Education’s Professional Teaching Development Center. Master teaching fellows will get the opportunity to teach in methods courses at Cal State Fullerton and Santa Ana College and participate in outreach activities in undergraduate STEM courses.
“The opportunity to observe an experienced colleague, pose and receive answers to questions as they arise, discuss concerns, test ideas, get feedback and assistance, is invaluable and rated as one of the most important features of pre-service and teacher induction programs,” said Yopp-Edwards, adding that the benefits for the master teaching fellows is great as well.
“We believe that through the master teaching fellows’ participation in the project, they will not only further develop their own teaching skills and the skills of individuals they mentor, but they will influence STEM undergraduates to consider careers in teaching mathematics.”