In May, Dordt College was awarded the $1.2 million Noyce Grant—the largest in Dordt’s history—by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The college will designate $810,000 to student scholarships, and the remainder will go to recruit more students into STEM education.
In 2003, the state of Iowa recognized the teacher shortage in STEM areas. In 2011, more than 20 percent of math teachers and more than 15 percent of science teachers were not certified to teach in their area. A year later, the NSF found that 27 percent of math teachers and 18 percent of science teachers did not even have a degree in math or science.
With this new grant, Dordt College hopes to attract future teachers, even those who may not have considered a STEM career before.
“I’m really excited for what this will do for Dordt,” says Dordt Mathematics Professor Valorie Zonnefeld, the principal investigator and grant writer. “This is a huge boost and is really going to help us recruit STEM teachers.”
Zonnefeld says the shortage of good math teachers sparked the project, but the scope expanded to include all teachers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields of study. In the next five years 54 scholarships will be available to Dordt students with double majors in education and a STEM field, including biology, chemistry, earth science, engineering, and physics.
“This grant is a culture-shaping opportunity,” says Leah Zuidema, Dordt College’s Associate Provost and Dean for Curriculum and Instruction. “It puts Dordt College at the forefront of shaping Christian teachers in STEM.” The grant will help better prepare teachers to educate those in high-need schools and be leaders in their schools and communities.
Starting in the fall four Noyce Scholarships will be available to STEM education students. For each year a student receives this scholarship the student must work two years in a high-need school.
Dordt College Statistics Professor Dr. Nathan Tintle, a co-principal investigator for the project, believes this grant addresses the need to increase the number of STEM education students. Tintle said the project “will have a long-lasting, meaningful impact on our Dordt students.” It will lower the barriers for entry into STEM education, reduce students’ debt, and affect how high school students consider STEM education as a career.
Additional co-principal investigators include Dr. Ryan Zonnefeld, Dr. Tom Clark, and Dr. Jeff Ploegstra. Ryan Zonnefeld, an education professor, will serve as the grant compliance monitor to ensure that scholarship awardees are serving in high-need schools. Clark, a mathematics professor, and Ploegstra, a biology professor, will serve as leaders of STEM-related outreach events to local K-12 schools.