HAYS – The Noyce Teacher-Leader Program at Fort Hays State University offers a $14,000 renewable scholarship to juniors and seniors preparing to become a science or math teacher.
But the program through the National Science Foundation (NSF) is more than just a scholar-ship. Recipients of the Noyce Teacher-Leader awards engage in specialized coursework and enroll in a seminar program designed to help them learn how to teach in rural school districts. In addition to preparation for teaching, additional resources are provided to support undergraduate research experiences and travel to conferences.
The scholarship, for juniors and seniors only, can be renewed for a second year. For each year they receive the scholarship, Noyce graduates agree to teach in a high-needs school district for two years. The new teachers also continue to receive support the first three years in their school district through an online mentoring program.
FHSU applied to the NSF for a five-year grant in 2011 and received $1.2 million for scholarships that began being awarded in 2012. The NSF awarded Fort Hays State an additional year of funding in 2018, and the school was encouraged to apply again. FHSU is now in its third year of a five-year, $1.45 million grant that will run through 2023.
Dr. Paul Adams, dean of the College of Education and professor of education and professor of physics at FHSU, calls Noyce “the Super Bowl of scholarships.”
“The NSF wants to support institutions that are committed to preparing the best science and mathematics teachers who can then can go on to become leaders in their communities and make a difference in these high-need communities,” he said.
After participating in the Teacher-Leader program the past two years, Seth Boxberger and Cayla Steinert said they feel prepared to take over a classroom of their own.
“This has definitely given me a jumpstart to my career,” said Boxberger, a math education major. “As a teacher in the STEM education field, you are likely going to be involved with a number of departments in your school. This program helped me come out of my shell and get involved with a lot of people. Not only did the scholarship help pay for my education, I got a lot more in-depth experience than I would have in the regular teacher education program.”
Boxberger grew up in Russell, where his mom, Kim, is a long-time kindergarten teacher. His hesitation in pursuing the same career as his mom vanished when, while transferring from Kansas State University to FHSU, he heard about the Noyce scholarship.
He treasured the experiences that a smaller school district provided him as a student and welcomes the opportunity to offer the same experience to his future students.
“I was able to be very involved and knew all my teachers and coaches in high school,” Boxberger said. “We were able to build relationships that students in larger schools might not be able to. Our discussions in Noyce seminar help us realize the importance of those aspects of education.”
Steinert – a biology education major from Olmitz, a small town in Barton County – also is a transfer student and was able to take advantage of a partnership that FHSU has with five western Kansas community colleges through the Noyce Scholarship Program.
Steinert, a graduate of Garden City Community College, was the first transfer student to become a Noyce scholar through the community college partnership.
Now, she looks forward to teaching students in a rural district similar to the one she attended at Otis-Bison, which includes students from Otis, Bison, Olmitz, Albert, and Timken.
“I graduated in a class of 17, so I knew my classmates very well,” she said. “It was a great family dynamic, and we were able to be involved in so many activities.”
Steinert stressed that a benefit of teaching in a rural program is the chance to stay connected to students well as they progress through their K-12 experience.
“When you see them every year, you can form better relationships with your students,” she said. “That creates a more welcoming environment for learning.”
To date, 54 Fort Hays State students in the Noyce Teacher-Leader Program have received the scholarship. All but three of those (who dropped out because they changed their majors) are either still teaching, student teaching or attending school.
Students have until Dec. 1 to apply for a spring 2021 award. Those interested in starting in the fall of 2021 have until Feb. 15, 2021, to apply. Students with junior level status (45 credit hours) by the spring semester are eligible to apply. Applications are available on the web site https://www.fhsu.edu/smei/noyce. For more information about the program, contact Earl Legleiter, director of FHSU’s Science and Mathematics Education Institute, at 303-801-8401 or firstname.lastname@example.org.