Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Grant Helps STEM Pros Recareer as Teachers

a group of conference attendees pose for a picture beside a welcome banner.

Fifteen science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals have a chance at recareering as secondary classroom teachers through Rio Salado’s Noyce Scholars Program. Qualified candidates will benefit from a generous $16.5K stipend provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Rio Salado’s fast-track teacher education program.

The next deadline to apply is July 24, 2015. 

Rio Salado’s Noyce Scholars Program is ideal for Valley STEM professionals who’ve been thinking about making the transition to teaching. The stipend funds are part of a $1.2 million NSF grant awarded to Rio Salado in 2011 as a way of encouraging STEM professionals to bring their industry experience to the classroom, combat the shortage of qualified STEM teachers and help Arizona teens prepare for high-need STEM careers.

It was a natural decision for Phoenix resident Katy Westersund to enter the program. “I started to think about my prior career as an environmental engineer, and about what I can do now,” said Westersund, a full-time mom who also volunteers at her children's school.

image of Catherine Westersund

“I attended Rio’s Post Baccalaureate Teacher Preparation Orientation,” said Westersund. “The instructor put up a slide with three questions: Do you like math and science? Are you needing to recareer? Do you want to help others learn? And I said, yes, that’s me.”

“I decided to pursue a career as a secondary math teacher because I loved my career as an environmental engineer, said Westersund. “I think I saw that as a mother I could advocate for my children, to give them the best opportunity and to love math and science. By me becoming a secondary math teacher, I can be an advocate for a classroom of students.”

Westersund completed a student teaching assignment at Tempe Union High School in November and received her teacher certification in January. She plans to teach honors algebra and financial algebra at Horizon Community of Learning Charter School in Phoenix. Westersund is one of 28 Rio Salado students who has already completed the program.

Qualified applicants will have an opportunity to earn a Secondary Arizona Teaching Certificate in math or science for grades 6-12. They will be provided mentoring, assistance with job placement and first-year classroom support.
The 15-month post-baccalaureate program is online, making it accessible and convenient. 

“Students are supported throughout the program with their coursework by a success coach and a mentor during the first year of teaching to assist with classroom management and other first-year teacher challenges,” said Noyce Scholars Program Manager Karen Nave.

Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree, three or more years of experience in a non-education STEM career-- and a passion for teaching. The application process includes a subject knowledge exam, a teaching seminar and screening interview. Please note, the application process usually takes about a month to complete.

Classes for the next cohort begin the first week of September. For more details, visit www.riosalado.edu/noyce or call 480-517-8066.

Pictured above: Rio Salado Teacher Ed staff accompany Noyce Scholars at February 2014 National Title I Conference for Educators Conference in San Diego.