(Posted April 17, 2023)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. – Juniata College has been awarded $1,199,981 from the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund a project, “Energizing STEM Teaching Across Rural Schools II” (E-STARS II).

“We are grateful to the NSF for recognizing the quality of our efforts to prepare STEM teachers and for our commitment to our region and to strengthening rural education,” said Lauren Bowen, Provost. “The faculty leading this project are deeply committed to equipping future teachers with the knowledge and skills so they can lead as classroom teachers and empower their students.”

This project, led by Kathy Jones, professor of education, and co-leads Jamie White, William I. and Zella B. Book Professor of Physics and Leslie Leckvarcik, director of Juniata College’s Science in Motion Program is designed to address the national need for preparing highly-trained STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) teachers in rural schools which often lack the resources for advanced science and math coursework and technologies.

“Juniata has long been known for having outstanding science programs, and with this we have always supported the growth of future STEM teachers in both our science departments and our secondary education program,” White said. “The need in Pennsylvania, as well as the rest of the country, for well-prepared STEM teachers is critical for our communities.  That we can support students through scholarships and professional growth opportunities as they pursue their goals to become STEM teachers in rural school districts, is perfectly inline with both Juniata’s goals and the goals of the National Science Foundation that is funding this initiative.” 

Through E-STARS II, prospective teachers will learn how to address the specific challenges and opportunities of rural schools and students by providing innovative and creative secondary science and math courses.

E-STARS II builds upon the success of Juniata’s initial Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program-funded initiative E-STARS project.

“We are so excited to be able to continue the work that we started with the initial E-STARS grant that meant scholarships, and summer internship awards for our students,” said Jones. “There is a shortage of STEM teachers, and our Juniata students are highly sought after. These additional funds make it easier for our students to also pursue study aboard opportunities and professional conferences. They will also be networking with young STEM teachers currently in the field.”

Over five years, E-STARS II will provide scholarships for 24 Juniata undergraduate juniors and seniors studying STEM secondary education. These future educators will be trained in culturally relevant and sustaining educational practices to ensure they provide and champion an equitable educational opportunity for all students, along with summer research and field placement opportunities.

The project includes partnerships with five local districts, Altoona Area School District, Huntingdon Area School District, Mount Union Area School District, Juniata Valley School District, and Tyrone Area School District, and integrates the Science in Motion program, which supports rural middle and high schools by providing mobile educators, equipment, and materials as well as professional development for teachers.

“The Science in Motion program is an excellent way for students to gain exposure to a variety of science teachers in a rural classroom setting,” said Leckvarcik.

The end goal of this work is to prepare students in rural areas, where the need for a strong, well-trained, and educated STEM workforce is a national priority, to pursue STEM disciplines in college and the workplace. Creating opportunities for a high-quality, equitable STEM education provides a foundation for future generations to succeed in this much-needed field.

Jones, White and Leckvarcik were joined in the grant application process by Kathy Westcott, Charles A. Dana Professor of Psychology, and supported by Katie Dickey, director of grants and foundation relations.

The Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program supports talented STEM undergraduate majors and professionals to become effective K-12 STEM teachers and experienced, exemplary K-12 teachers to become STEM master teachers in high-need school districts. It also supports research on the persistence, retention, and effectiveness of K-12 STEM teachers in high-need school districts.

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.