Contact: Jeff Hale, 277-2915 or
Michael Padilla, 277-1816

December 20, 2000

UNM COLLEGE OF EDUCATION RECEIVES $1.18 MILLION FEDERAL GRANT TO IMPROVE MATH AND SCIENCE EDUCATION

The University of New Mexico College of Education (UNM-COE) has received a $1.18 million federal grant for the “Math and Science Teacher Academy.”

Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-NM) hosted a public announcement at Inez Elementary School in Albuquerque on Wednesday, Dec. 20, that also included participation by Judy Jones, UNM vice president for Advancement, and Viola E. Florez, UNM College of Education dean. Also in attendance were faculty from the UNM College of Education and teachers from Inez Elementary School in Albuquerque.

“We all want our students to be well prepared in math and science for the jobs of the twenty first century,” said Wilson. “One of the best ways to do that is to strengthen the training of our teachers in math and science. UNM, with the financial support of Lockheed-Martin, started the Math and Science Teacher Academy. These federal funds will significantly expand it to reach more teachers throughout the state of New Mexico.”

Anne Madsen and Heather Wilson
PHOTO BY MICHAEL PADILLA

Anne Madsen, associate professor with the College of Education Educational Specialties, talks to Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-NM).

“This Title III grant proposed by Congresswoman Heather Wilson and recently approved by Congress is very good news,” said Florez. “Not only for UNM and the College of Education but also for public education across the state of New Mexico. Funding from this grant will allow the College to address two critical needs: advanced professional development opportunities for teachers, as well as the shortage of teacher’s specializing in math and science education.”

The main goal of the Math and Science Teacher Academy is to increase the capability of New Mexico’s public school teachers to deliver appropriate, high quality math and science education. This will be accomplished both through the “pre-service” education of future teachers currently attending the College, as well as in advanced professional development workshops/institutes for existing K-12 educators from across the state.

The funding for the project will go toward technology enhancements, tuition and stipends for student and teacher participants, project documentation and research, Academy operating expenses, and travel reimbursement for trainers and participants. The institutes will involve not only public school teachers and UNM-COE faculty, but also scientists and engineers from the laboratories, as well as private sector representatives, including retirees and those seeking mid-life career changes.

“This is a great way to use the talent we have in our national laboratories, universities and high tech industry and connect it to our public schools through teacher training,” Wilson said.

Marilyn Scargall, director of Professional Licensure at the New Mexico State Department of Education, said there is almost universal agreement that student success is directly tied to the quality of the teaching force.

“This award which focuses on enhancing the quality of math and science teachers is a significant accomplishment for UNM’s College of Education and for New Mexico. It supports the joint efforts of the State Board of Education and the Commission on Higher Education to develop statewide K-16 partnerships to improve the quality of New Mexico’s teaching force,” Scargall said.

Florez said that unfortunately, many school districts across the state lack the resources to provide adequate opportunities for teachers to acquire new skills and share successful teaching strategies.

“This is why the Title III grant’s focus on advanced professional development for teachers is so important. These funds will make possible the inclusion of up to 300 teachers from across New Mexico in seminars and institutes designed to provide them with innovative tools and strategies which they can include in their day-to-day curriculum/lesson plans to improve student performance in math and science,” she said.

Florez said that another unfortunate fact about New Mexico is the teacher shortage problem, which is projected to get worse over the next few years unless a variety of proactive measures are taken.

“It is no secret that teachers with math and science education specialties are one of the categories of greatest need in the state,” she said. “Thus, by enabling teachers participating in the institutes to acquire increased skills in math and science education, the UNM-COE Math and Science Teacher Academy will further their progress toward acquiring state licensure endorsements in this area of critical need.”

Florez said the qualifications of the UNM-COE to conduct these advanced professional development institutes are extraordinary. “Our faculty in math and science education possess both the academic/research credentials and the experience of having designed and conducted a wide variety of math and science academies for K-12 teachers, including an ongoing summer institute funded by Lockheed-Martin Corporation,” she said. “And I am impressed by their desire to work with school districts from across New Mexico; they are a dynamic, community-focused group.”

Florez said the timing of this grant could not be better. A report released just three months ago by “The National Commission on Math and Science Teaching for the 21st Century,” emphasized the urgent need to create math and science academies across the United States for the advanced professional development of teachers. The Commission, chaired by former Senator John Glenn, also stressed the critical need to replenish the nation’s dwindling supply of math and science teachers. “Therefore, against this backdrop of both national and statewide need, the UNM College of Education is honored to be selected as the recipient of this important grant,” Florez said.

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