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National Science Foundation Awards $1.2 Million to Train STEM Teachers

The phrase STEM Education appears on desktop computer monitor, with icons representing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math
(Image credit: Thinkstock/Yanawut)

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that computer and information technology employment are projected to grow 12 percent by 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. These occupations are projected to add about 546,200 new jobs, focusing primarily on cloud computing, the collection and storage of big data, and information security.

With a median annual wage of $88,240, the computer and information technology occupations offer a challenging and rewarding opportunity for STEM-minded students. 

However, projections show there won’t be enough teachers to educate these future professionals. 

A $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to the University of Houston’s teachHOUSTON program aims to address the shortage by training secondary STEM teachers to work in economically disadvantaged high schools in the Greater Houston area.  

The new five-year project, Advancing Cultural and Computational Engagement in STEM Scholars (UH-ACCESS), will prepare 30 UH students from varying disciplines to teach computer science, physics and technology at the high school level. The first cohort starts this fall. 

teachHOUSTON is a collaborative project of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, the College of Education and local school districts and has produced 350 math and science teachers since its first graduating class in 2009. 

“Our goal is to prepare a diverse group of teachers who will inspire students to become the country’s next technologically advanced, highly-skilled workforce,” said Paige Evans, associate director of teachHOUSTON and principal investigator on the project.  

UH-ACCESS scholars will receive a $12,000 scholarship per academic year for two years, as well as structured support for the first three years of their teaching careers. They will work in the field observing and teaching in partner schools in the Houston, Alvin, Pasadena, Spring Branch and Cy-Fair Independent School Districts. Scholars will also receive mentoring and support from community leaders who will provide education about social justice issues, better preparing them to work with underserved populations. 

“We are trying to find potential teachers who already exhibit a sociocultural awareness,” said Evans. “Research has shown that students do better in science, technology, engineering and math if the content is connected to their community and culture.”

UH-ACCESS co-collaborators include Jaspal Subhlok, professor of computer science; Donna Stokes, NSM associate dean of student success and undergraduate affairs and professor in the Department of Physics; Weihang Zhu, associate professor in the Department of Engineering Technology; Conra Gist, associate professor in the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction; and Leah McAlister-Shields, lecturer and teachHOUSTON faculty advisor in the Department of Mathematics.