As the need for qualified science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teachers continues to rise, a program in Fresno State’s College of Science and Mathematics has been encouraging students to become credentialed teachers for more than a decade.

Since its start in 1999, the Science and Mathematics Education Center has received about $10 million in grant funding for the recruitment and retention of science and mathematics students. This support includes a $1.4 million grant recently awarded from the National Science Foundation.

These funds will support the Robert Noyce Scholars program, which provides scholarships, fellowships and academic support for STEM majors interested in becoming science or mathematics teachers for grades 7-12.

“Being a Noyce Fellow was one of the best things that happened to me for my career,” said Vanessa Tucker, a biology, anatomy and physiology teacher at Hanford West High School. “The program gives future teachers a range of experience in leadership roles, classrooms, conferences and other professional development before we ever enter a classroom.”

Tucker is in her second year as a teacher and takes pride in the level of instruction she is able to provide. “Because of my education, I can give students ‘big town’ opportunities they may have not have gotten otherwise, and in doing so prepare them for college and life beyond high school. These are wonderful, smart kids with bright futures who need someone to hold them to a higher standard, to expect their best and to give them opportunities to learn.”

Tucker’s experience is exactly what the program was designed to deliver, said Dr. David Andrews, director of the Science and Mathematics Education Center. “The idea is to better prepare students as undergraduates so they know what they are getting into before going into a credential teaching program.”

Noyce Teaching Fellows must earn a master’s degree in a science discipline or mathematics along with a teaching credential and must agree to teach four years at a local high-risk school. According to program directors, most Noyce teachers stay long after their obligation has passed.

“Our program is one of the largest and longest supported in the U.S.,” said Dr. Jaime Arvizu, associate director of the Science and Mathematics Education Center. “We’ve had about 115 scholars and fellows go through the program, and of those, only four have left the Valley and 96 percent stayed in teaching while 90 percent continue to teach at high-risk schools.”

Fresno State was the first university in California to implement a Noyce Scholars program. Since its launch in 2002, the program has been replicated at nearly every campus in the California State University system. Fresno State has hosted regional conferences involving Noyce programs at 11 western region states for students, teachers and project leaders.

For more information contact Andrews at 559.278.5174 or

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