New Grant Aims to Boost STEM Teacher Education

July 30, 2020

An interdisciplinary team of UCI faculty and staff led by School of Biological Sciences Associate Teaching Professor Jessica Pratt was recently awarded a new grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support STEM teacher preparation through UCI’s CalTeach program, where students can obtain their STEM B.S. as well as a California preliminary teaching credential in just 4 years. Pratt, along with co-PI’s, Professor Philip Collins from the School of Physical Sciences, Professor Rossella Santagata from the School of Education and CalTeach staff including Kris Houston, Chelsea Barilli, and Doron Zinger, developed the project titled “Transfer to Teaching: Accelerated STEM Teacher Preparation from Community College to Credential”. This new program aims to promote the transfer of STEM community college students into the CalTeach Science & Mathematics Program at UCI.  

CalTeach is a component of the University of California’s CalTeach-Science and Math Initiative. The program recruits diverse math and science teacher candidates (over 50% first generation or coming from low-income communities), prepares them for equitable teaching in diverse classrooms, mentors them in high-need local schools, and supports graduates through the first years of their teaching careers. Pratt shared that “this grant will support students who may not have seen themselves as UCI STEM students or future teachers, creating greater access for them.” 

With support from the NSF, the UCI-led team will help accelerate the pathway from community college to credentialed STEM teaching through additional financial and educational support for Transfer-to-Teaching Scholars including cross-enrollment in education courses, a Summer STEM Research Institute for Future Teachers designed and taught by Pratt, and tuition and fee fellowships (totaling up to $30,000 per students). Once selected, the students’ goals will be to earn a Bachelor of Science degree and single subject teaching credential in mathematics or science within two years of transferring from the community college. Over five years, the program will recruit and support at least 24 new STEM teachers who will then serve in high-need school districts. 

In addition to the UCI Schools of Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Education, four local community colleges will participate: Cerritos College, Santa Ana College, Mt. San Antonio College and Santiago Canyon College, although students transferring from any community college are eligible to apply. The UCI faculty team is optimistic that, when successful, the program can serve as a model to expand pathways into STEM teaching for other institutions across the nation.