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Hodge Awarded $1.4M NSF Grant to Further STEM Education

An associate professor of math education has been awarded a $1.4 million National Science Foundation grant to recruit and prepare secondary science and mathematics teachers.

Lynn Hodge, associate professor of math education in the Department of Theory and Practice in Teacher Education (TPTE), has been awarded a grant through the NSF Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program. The scholarship program was created to encourage STEM majors and professionals to become K-12 teachers in their given field.

The project, VolsTeach for Appalachia (VTA), is a collaboration with Pellissippi State Community College (PSCC) and school districts in the Appalachian region of Tennessee. By engaging students in the Tennessee Promise program, which provides two years of free community college to the state’s students, the project will enable transfer students in STEM majors to graduate from UT with a minor in education and teaching certification within four years. Hodge and her team plan to recruit and prepare community college students to teach math or science in Anderson County, Campbell County, Claiborne Count, Lenoir City, and Sevier County school systems.

The majority of the grant will go to fund scholarships for 32 students over two years. This also includes summer internships, one of which will be with KidsU, a UT summer camp program for area youth in grades 3-12. Funding is also provided to mentor teacher stipends.

“East Tennessee is experiencing a persistent shortage in mathematics and science teachers,” said Hodge. “This is a situation that is reflected in school districts across the nation. VTA will allow 32 high-potential Noyce Appalachian Scholars to become STEM teachers with a commitment to devote their first four years of teaching to high-need school districts.”

The program will include the implementation of a STEM Teaching and Learning course at PSCC and a four-week summer internship that will serve to inspire first-year students’ love of STEM teaching. The research component will examine the teacher pathway model and enhanced coursework that will support culturally responsive teaching. Hodge and the project team drew on TPTE’s connections with educational networks in the region to develop key components of the proposal.

Co-investigators on the project are Kane Barker, dean of natural and behavioral sciences at PSCC; Susan Riechert, distinguished service professor in UT’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; and Larry Long, assistant director of transfer admissions in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

Sharon Pound, strategic research initiative manager in the Office of Research and Engagement, assisted Hodge in her application by engaging with UT entities in designing student recruitment and support as part of the project. These organizations include the Offices of Undergraduate Admissions, Housing, First-Year Studies, Distance Learning, Center for Leadership and Service, Student Success Center, and KidsU resources on campus. In addition to UT offices, Hodge and Pound met with the Blount County Chamber of Commerce, which is pursuing an Appalachian workforce development program.