NSF Grant Supports Expanding Math, Science Education Program

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

PHILADELPHIA (August 12, 2009) – A five-year math and science education program at Saint Joseph's University will expand its efforts to train teachers to serve in Philadelphia and other high-need school districts thanks to a $748,182 grant from the National Science Foundation's Robert Noyce Scholarship program.

Collaborating with the School District of Philadelphia, the project will recruit current and incoming undergraduate students to the University's five-year bachelor's/master's program in mathematics and science secondary education by providing teaching internships early in their studies at SJU and scholarships in the final two years. In exchange, scholarship recipients will commit to teach in Philadelphia and other high-need areas for two years for each year that they received financial assistance. A minimum of 19 students will benefit from the grant through the 2013-14 academic year.

"There is a great need for highly qualified mathematics and science teachers at the secondary level across the country, and especially in school districts like Philadelphia," said Sandra Fillebrown, Ph.D., associate professor of math and computer science at Saint Joseph's and one of the project's initiators. "The University addresses this need by designing the five-year program to help prepare teachers with a strong background in the subject areas as well as in pedagogy. This funding will allow us to attract more students to these programs and to strengthen the ties that SJU already has with the School District of Philadelphia."

Students in the program will gain teaching experience through internships; this year, students worked with Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia, a program that targets underprivileged middle school students with high academic interest. Relationships with other schools and programs are in development.

"Being in a classroom this summer taught me how to keep my students motivated and to make them comfortable with me as a teacher by showing confidence," said Moira Devlin, a sophomore math major from Warminster, Pa., who completed an internship with Breakthrough this summer as part of the program. "I also learned how challenging it is to create a lesson plan a week before the class and to need to adapt it as things change in the classroom."

Devlin taught a mathematics art elective class four days a week for six weeks, and said that she learned how to keep students engaged in a complicated subject. "Kids get bored doing math five days a week," she said, "so I taught them about how polygons show up in art. I showed them that math isn't just about numbers; it's about how those numbers apply in life."

"This project expresses a fundamental dimension of our Jesuit mission—a transforming commitment to social justice," said William Madges, Ph.D., dean of SJU's College of Arts and Sciences. "By recruiting highly qualified students to become high school teachers in underserved environments and by providing them the educational experience and support they need both before and after entering their school district, we are helping to address the imbalance in educational opportunities between urban and suburban children, imbalances that typically reflect economic and racial divisions."

Media Contact

Jeffrey Martin, Office of University Communications, 610-660-3223, jeffrey.martin@sju.edu

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