Pott College receives grants to impact STEM education

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The Teaching Eagles program and the university graduate program for high school teachers received more than $700,000 in separate grants from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education to use through 2017.

The program, which mainly provides scholarships to education majors, received a grant continuation of $476,496. The commission gave the university $286,941 to support high school teachers pursuing graduate courses in math, biology or chemistry.

With the Teaching Eagles’ grant continuation effective through 2017 added to the initial $835,000 received to launch the program, the Teaching Eagles has accumulated over $1.3 million since 2014.

“There’s a teacher shortage, not just here, but everywhere across the country,” said Kelly Sparks, assistant professor of education and director of the Teaching Eagles program. “It’s getting worse, especially in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field.”

The Teaching Eagles program is unique in that it offers scholarships not only to students pursuing secondary education teaching degrees, but also those who pursue elementary education, Sparks said.

“A lot of universities just focus on the secondary,” she said, “but elementary is where it all begins.”

Sparks said to be a part of the Teaching Eagles program, education majors must apply and once accepted, are expected to participate in events, outreach opportunities and seminars.

Upon completion of the program, all students are required to apply for teaching positions in Indiana.

The grant totaling $286,941 will be used to increase the offerings of both online and traditional courses in math and science as well as  provide scholarships to high school teachers pursuing graduate degrees, said Mathematics Department chair Rick Hudson.

In addition, part of the money will go into a quantitative reasoning conference the department will host during the summer of 2017.

Hudson said the college spent most of the fall semester developing the grant proposal and received news of its acceptance near the end of November.

“I hope it has an impact on the quality of STEM education that extends to the workforce,” he said. “It’s definitely intentional with the shortage of STEM teachers.”

With the newly changed and more demanding qualifications for dual-credit high school teachers, Hudson said the grant will help support those teachers in meeting requirements.

“Higher education is changing in a lot of ways,” he said. “We want to be sure that our (high school dual-credit) classes are the highest quality possible and instructors have a wide variety of experiences.”

Hudson said there is often a misconception that teachers are restricted and don’t have a worthwhile job, but he disagrees.

“The opportunity you have to make as a teacher is phenomenal,” he said. “You have a career that impacts the next generation. It’s an exciting field.”