SF State receives $3.3 million award to support STEM educators

Associate Professor in Secondary Education Larry Horvath, Professor of Mathematics Eric Hsu and Assistant Professor of Mathematics Kimberly Seashore are principle investigators on a $3.3 million NSF grant to support math and science teachers.

SF State researchers Kim Seashore, Larry Horvath, and Eric Hsu will collaborate on a $3.3 million NSF grant to support math and science teachers.

National Science Foundation grant will help develop teacher leadership 

Lindsay Miller is in her first year teaching chemistry and math at a high-needs high school in San Francisco. At the same time, she is studying for her master’s degree at San Francisco State University and working a second job to make ends meet. She loves her work but says her current lifestyle can be quite challenging. “There are definitely days that test me,” she said.

While working toward her teaching credential at San Francisco State, Miller was a Robert Noyce scholar, which gave her financial support and the opportunity to network with others in the same situation. “It was one of the hardest years of my life and [the program] allowed me to have a place and a group of people who understood the stress that I was under,” said Miller. “It was a place to grow professionally and build a network of teachers to collaborate with and bounce ideas off of.”

In April, the National Science Foundation (NSF) gave SF State a $3.3 million grant for continued professional development of teachers like Miller. Over the three years of the grant, institutions in the 14 western states — the Western Regional Noyce Alliance — will host three annual conferences, six math and science summer institutes and 18 regional networking sessions; the grant will also support nine of the Noyce scholars in summer research experiences.

“When they complete their training as fellows, the Robert Noyce scholars still need ongoing support,” said Assistant Professor of Mathematics Kim Seashore. “Teaching in high-needs schools can be a [challenging] endeavor, and [this grant] supports teachers who you want to stay in the profession. We know that that type of leadership takes a lot to sustain and to build.”

In total, the grant will support the professional development of over 1,000 Robert Noyce scholars from 14 western states over the next three years, with 45 of them from SF State. A previous $1.2 million NSF grant in 2011 supported training and development of SF State’s Robert Noyce scholars. Scholarship recipients receive grants of between $15,000 and $20,000 per year as they prepare to become math and science teachers. Recipients are required to teach for at least two years in a high-needs school for each year of support.

With the state facing a shortage of qualified math and science teachers, the new professional development grant is especially important because it helps keep teachers in high-needs schools engaged and networked with others doing the same kind of work, said Larry Horvath, associate professor of secondary education and one of three principal investigators. (The two other principal investigators are from San Diego State University and Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo.) Seashore and SF State Professor of Mathematics Eric Hsu will support Horvath on the grant.

Horvath said the funding will ultimately promote greater equity and social justice in math and science.

“This is the kind of work we think of when we get into this profession,” said Horvath. “How do we look at equity and social justice in STEM education and encourage diversity and quality in our teachers so that all students can have access to higher quality math and science teaching? We do that by putting these Noyce scholars in the pipeline."