Career Changers as Math and Science Teachers

Attendees of Noyce Scholars conference

By Jeanne Grier, Associate Professor of Secondary Education, School of Education

A 2007 report, Critical Path Analysis of California’s Science and Mathematics Teacher Preparation System, by the California Council on Science and Technology and the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning estimates that California will need 33,000 new math and science teachers over the next decade. It has been predicted that more new teachers will enter the profession in the next 5-10 years than at any time since the 1970’s.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) professionals have been a focused target of teacher recruitment efforts. STEM career changers strengthen the teaching of science and mathematics by helping students to understand the practical applications of these subjects. My research partner, Dr. Carol Johnston, Associate Professor of Education at Mt. Saint Mary’s College, and I have been studying STEM professionals as they transition between careers into teaching.

Major findings of our work include the need for and benefit of career changers being socialized into the teaching profession in credential programs alongside their more traditional-aged peers. Many of the career changers in our studies were reluctant about attending the credential program, however, by the end of their course work and student teaching they recognized the value of learning about teaching methods, different learning styles, and working with English Learners and students with special needs.

As many career changers have families and have left more lucrative jobs to pursue teaching, we also found more support was needed from family, professors, and peers, as well as financial support to achieve their new career goals. In an effort to provide the additional financial support and incentive for career changers I have received several grants that provide scholarships for future math and science teachers at CI. The Math and Science Teacher Initiative (MSTI) funded through the California State University Chancellor’s Office has provided over $120,000 in scholarships to over 50 math and science credential students in the last six years. Additionally, Dr. Ivona Grzegorczyk, Chair and Professor of Mathematics at CI, and I, along with faculty at CSU Monterey Bay and Humboldt State were awarded a five-year $900,000 Robert Noyce Scholarship Grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The three-campus consortium shares the award devoted to providing mathematics students financial support as they pursue teaching credentials. CI hosted a successful conference for the Noyce Scholars from all three campuses this past February and we have submitted an application for a Noyce Scholars program for future science teachers.

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