Chair and Associate Professor of Education Angeli Willson, Ph.D., walks with a student.

St. Mary’s University has received a one-year $75,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to increase the K-12 teaching pipeline for STEM disciplines. 

The Robert Noyce Capacity Building grant is a joint effort between Associate Professor of Environmental Science David Turner, Ph.D., and Chair and Associate Professor of Education Angeli Willson, Ph.D.

Turner, who champions developing STEM majors at St. Mary’s into quality educators, such as award-winning science teacher Christina Lopez (B.A. ’18), first heard about the Noyce NSF grant during the pandemic stay-home period.

“I participated in a seminar on the Noyce grant through the American Association for the Advancement of Science and immediately contacted Angeli Willson to partner up,” Turner said. “Angeli was instrumental in obtaining the grant, and her connections with the San Antonio Independent School District and the Northside Independent School District helped us receive support from their superintendents.”

Turner said the grant funds will be used to develop surveys and collect data before applying for a larger grant next year to expand the pipeline at St. Mary’s. 

The goal is to prepare more St. Mary’s students to teach in STEM fields in high-need schools. 

“Every STEM student has been shaped by that one teacher who ignited their passion.”

David Turner, Ph.D.

“Texas has had a shortage of teachers certified to teach in the STEM subjects,” Wilson said. “This shortage has been more apparent in the past two years, with many teachers leaving the profession due to the pandemic.”

According to Wilson, graduates in STEM with teacher certifications have averaged 10% of the total number of St. Mary’s graduates in the past 13 semesters. 

At St. Mary’s, five undergraduate programs offer degree options for teacher certification: Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental Science and Mathematics.

“With this NSF grant, we will survey and interview high school administrators and teachers, high school students and current STEM college undergraduates to learn which STEM areas schools need, what factors influenced the college degree current STEM students chose to pursue and what factors would influence high school students in choosing a college degree to pursue,” Wilson said. 

Turner said he hopes to illuminate more prospective and current college students in the sciences on teaching becoming a rewarding profession. 

“Every STEM student has been shaped by that one teacher who ignited their passion,” Turner said.

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