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Supporting Tomorrow’s STEM Teachers


In our increasingly digital world, it is important to graduate more students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math. Our nation’s competitiveness depends on the genius and dedication of tomorrow’s scientists, engineers, and innovators. Yet today, less than 40 percent of American students pursue STEM fields, and there’s an insufficient pipeline of teachers skilled in those subjects. At Hood College, STEM students are given the hands-on experience and liberal arts training they need to fill 21st-century jobs. And with a $1.45 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, Hood is empowering future teachers to spread their excitement for STEM.

Hood believes that future teachers in STEM disciplines need real experiences in STEM beyond the classroom. The Noyce STEM Teacher Education Partnership (Hood NSTEP), a collaborative effort led by the College in strategic partnership with Frederick Community College (FCC) and Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS), is making STEM more exciting and more accessible than ever before.

“Students need to be taught by teachers who understand the content and are fully prepared to teach that content,” said Jennifer Cuddapah, Associate Professor of Education at Hood. “Science teachers need to be prepared as scientists and also learn pedagogical strategies for inspiring their students to think like scientists themselves.”

Cuddapah, along with Christopher Stromberg, Associate Professor of Chemistry, and Ann Stewart, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Mathematics, worked together to apply for and secure the National Science Foundation funding.

The purpose of the grant is to meet the growing demand for qualified STEM teachers who are skilled in culturally relevant practices and desire to teach in high-needs schools, especially in the Frederick community. The funding enables Hood to provide scholarships, specialized programming, and mentoring to students who complete their biology, chemistry, or mathematics major and teacher certification requirements at the College.

“The idea for designing the different features we proposed came from our collaborative discussions,” Stewart said. “We brainstormed activities and learning experiences we thought would benefit our Hood students as they prepared to become STEM secondary teachers.”

In January, Hood students attended the first STEM 101 event, a multi-day experience comprised of workshops, informational sessions, and field trips led by faculty in the STEM majors, the education department, and the local school system.

Designed for students entering their sophomore year, the program introduces potential NSTEP scholar applicants to educational opportunities in STEM at Hood. NSTEP scholars will have the opportunity to student teach through Summer Young Scholars at FCPS, a two-week program for identified at-risk youth who demonstrate potential in STEM areas. Student teachers will also be exposed to regional rural, suburban, and city school systems to help them better understand what “high-needs” might mean in different educational contexts.

The Noyce Enrichment Series will host speakers and workshops to engage students and faculty in STEM teaching and cultural proficiency. Hood and FCPS facilitators will discuss topics such as how to develop cultural competence and relate to cultural differences in the classroom, how to bridge the connection between college and teaching in today’s schools, and how to teach in districts challenged by high populations of ELLs (English language-learners). NSTEP scholars will also attend one professional conference in their STEM field and one in education.

“As the science department chair at my school, I know firsthand that it has been a challenge to fill vacant science positions over the past several years, especially in chemistry,” said Patricia M. Crowell ’04, M.S.’08, a biology teacher at Tuscarora High School. “There is most definitely a demand for qualified STEM teacher candidates in Frederick County, and NSTEP is a great program to help meet this demand in the future.”

Because of the strategic partnership, students transferring to Hood from FCC will be given priority in receiving the awards. Perry Wood, Assistant Professor of Physics and Program Manager for Engineering at FCC, serves as the FCC liaison for the NSTEP program.

“FCC has many very talented students who have difficulty paying even the reduced tuition of FCC,” Wood said. “The NSTEP program will provide a means for students who transfer to Hood to complete their bachelor’s degree more quickly and with fewer loans.” NSTEP graduates will be highly qualified due to their participation in scientific inquiry and STEM problem solving. Because Maryland has certification reciprocity with many other states, graduates of Hood NSTEP will be able to choose teaching positions in high needs school districts in Maryland and beyond.

Riley Smith ’19, one the students who received the first NSTEP scholarships, says her greatest goal is “to change people’s lives.”

“I want to be the teacher that students feel comfortable talking to and being around,” she said. “I want to inspire my students and give them an education to allow them to do what they want to do and be who they want to be.”