BGSU to recruit, aid future math, science teachers

BOWLING GREEN, O.—An ambitious plan by Bowling Green State University to recruit and educate science and math teachers has been chosen for state funding. The $3 million Science and Math Education in Action grant will encourage and enable promising students to “Choose Ohio First” when selecting a college and, later, to find in-state teaching jobs.

Students in the program will receive from $2,000 to $4,250 per year in Choose Ohio First scholarships, along with intensive academic assistance, career counseling and the opportunity to conduct research and gain related work experience as undergraduates. Combined with other scholarships from BGSU, the future teachers could receive up to $9,250 as seniors. “We want to give them the support, the community and the encouragement to meet high standards and be successful,” said Dr. Bob Midden, leader of the grant-writing team.

“In essence, the primary goal of Science and Math Education in Action (SMEA) is to assist in the development and preparation of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) teachers who have the experiences, tools and skills necessary to have a positive impact on the learning of Pre-K–12 students in Ohio schools,” said Dr. Julia Matuga, associate dean of the College of Education and Human Development.

The state initiative is aimed at two of Gov. Ted Strickland and Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut’s objectives in addressing Ohio’s needs: graduating more students and keeping graduates in Ohio. By helping to better prepare the citizens of tomorrow, it also will play a role in work-force development, seen as another key to the state’s economic development. “Inspiring and effectively educating Pre-K–12 students in the STEM areas is a critical contribution to the future development of the state,” Matuga noted.

Part of the Ohio Innovation Partnership, the $100 million Choose Ohio First scholarship program seeks to improve the state’s competitiveness in science and math education. BGSU’s grant is one of 17 proposals funded. Bowling Green will partner with the University of Findlay and Owens, Terra and Northwest State community colleges to immediately begin recruiting Ohio students who have an interest in science or math and in becoming teachers, and whose high school grades, classes and activities indicate an interest in those fields. Those who come in through the community colleges will be able to finish their four-year degrees at BGSU.

“It’s been a great collaborative effort and will continue to be,” said Dr. Deanne Snavely, acting dean of the Graduate College.

To be eligible for the scholarships, STEM students do not have to initially declare teacher education as a major but in their first and second years must participate in experiences with Pre-K–12 students, exposing them to teaching as a profession. This is a strategy to recruit those STEM students who may not have considered becoming teachers by providing them with teaching experiences early in their college education, said Dr. Rosalind Hammond, interim education dean.

The grant team anticipates enrolling about 50 students on main campus and 10 at BGSU Firelands, with another 15 each at Findlay and Terra, 12 at Northwest State and 10 at Owens. BGSU Admissions Director Gary Swegan and Student Financial Aid Director Greg Guzman will collaborate to set them up with the scholarships, which are renewable for four years as long as they maintain the required grade point average and take the approved schedule of courses. “Choose Ohio First puts money directly into students’ pockets,” Snavely added.

BGSU’s program builds on its longstanding strength in teacher education, Midden said, and combines that with the content areas in science and math. The University has also been a leader in the study of teaching and learning, and will incorporate proven, research-based teaching strategies into the content-area courses, said Midden, a professor of chemistry. According to the board of regents, Bowling Green’s plan “builds on BGSU’s excellent track record on graduating highly prepared teaching professionals in Ohio.”

The junior and senior years of the SMEA program will focus on preparing STEM education professionals through a newly designed curriculum thread, Teachers as Researchers, that will be infused in required education-preparation coursework, Matuga explained. SMEA students will utilize classroom research methods learned in these courses to design and conduct action research while student teaching, thereby documenting the impact their teaching has on Pre-K-12 student learning in a STEM area.

The new program begins with a five-week summer bridge experience that brings students to campus early. “The goal is to introduce them to the rigors of college study and give them time to get to know one another and their faculty mentors,” Midden said.

Most SMEA students will spend their first year living in the Natural and Health Sciences Residential Community, located in Offenhauer West, where they will have access to exam review sessions, walk-in tutoring, small-group study sessions and other resources directly related to their coursework. “We have everything they need to get their work done,” said Robert Harr, director of the community. “We’re giving them the opportunities and the assistance along with the synergy of working and living with other students.”

Dr. James Michael Smith, vice president for economic development and regional growth, has been in discussion with hospitals and businesses from Norwalk and Sandusky to Fremont and Toledo to explore potential sites for student internships. “There’s going to be a large number of opportunities,” he predicted. “This will be a great way to tie industry more closely to the educational experience.”

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Editor’s Note: For contact Dr. Bob Midden at 419-372-0563 or midden@bgsu.edu; Matuga at
419-372-7317 or jmatuga@bgsu.edu, or Scott Borgelt, Marketing and Communications,
419-372-8582.

(Posted July 15, 2008 )