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UT Arlington receives $800,000 NSF grant to better prepare new science, math teachers

University of Texas at Arlington

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IMAGE: Ann Cavallo is professor of curriculum and instruction and associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Education and co-director of UTeach Arlington. view more

Credit: UT Arlington

A UT Arlington education professor with a passion for supporting upcoming middle and high school science and mathematics teachers is getting major federal assistance for her efforts.

The National Science Foundation has awarded an $800,000 Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program grant to Ann Cavallo, professor of curriculum and instruction and associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Education and co-director of UTeach Arlington.

The award will be used to provide one- to two-year scholarships worth $10,000 a year to selected undergraduates who are pursuing teacher certification in high school mathematics, physical science or chemistry. A one-year stipend will support post-baccalaureate students who want to switch careers to become secondary school math or science teachers. The grant also provides internship opportunities, enrichment activities, learning seminars and mentoring.

In exchange for the generous support, the newly certified math and science teachers will pledge to work at least two years at a school in an economically disadvantaged community. If the teachers receive two years of scholarship support, they will teach at the school for four years.

The majority of the UT Arlington graduates work for the Arlington, Fort Worth, Mansfield, Hurst-Euless-Bedford and Dallas school districts. Several other local school districts also partner with UT Arlington.

"We're excited to see our teacher program growing competitively, and we know that it is because of our ability to help teachers meet the changing needs of their diverse population of students and new demands of the classroom," said Cavallo, who joined UT Arlington in 2008. "Many teachers are also finding that they can advance their careers through our math and science education graduate degree programs."

Cavallo, the principal investigator for the Noyce grant, is collaborating with three UT Arlington colleagues: Greg Hale, assistant dean of the UT Arlington College of Science; physics professor Ramon Lopez; and James Epperson, associate professor of mathematics. All were co-investigators on a previous NSF grant. Noyce grants have provided UT Arlington with more than $3 million for similar efforts since 2008.

The new NSF funding complements several ongoing science and mathematics programs, particularly the UTeach Arlington program. UTeach Arlington was initially sponsored by a $1.4 million grant from the National Science and Mathematics Initiative awarded to Hale, Cavallo and Lopez. The program is now supported by UT Arlington and endowments such as the NSF grants.

Jeanne Gerlach, dean of the UT Arlington College of Education, said Cavallo, Hale and Lopez's work places them at the forefront of teacher educators who are working to change the face of K-12 science teaching in the region, state and nation.

"The grant award will support students who will use the inquiry method of teaching science in their classrooms," Gerlach said. "The students will be actively engaged in their learning, and research shows that to really learn and make meaning for ourselves, we must be active in our learning."

Cavallo's continual desire to help new teachers stems from her days as a high school biology, chemistry and earth science teacher in New York.

"When children understand science and math, they are able to make better judgments about other issues in life," Cavallo said. "A lot of children lose interest in science because they need stronger teachers. Teachers lose interest because they need stronger preparation and continued support. That's what UT Arlington science and math education programs provide."

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About the UT Arlington College of Education

The College of Education is fully accredited through the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and in 2006 became the first College of Education within the UT System to receive accreditation through the prestigious National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education. The college currently offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees through Departments of Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. Visit http://www.uta.edu/coehp to learn more.

About UT Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of nearly 35,000 students and 2,300 faculty members in the epicenter of North Texas. It is the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as the seventh fastest-growing public research university in 2013. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. Visit http://www.uta.edu to learn more. Follow #UTAdna on Twitter.

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