Project Spotlight: Teaching for Equity in Appalachia in Mathematics and Science

Project Spotlight: Teaching for Equity in Appalachia in Mathematics and Science

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

NSF's ITEST and Noyce programs both focus on improving STEM education by exposing, immersing, and engaging students and educators in varied educational settings. This month we explore Appalachian State’s Teaching for Equity in Appalachia in Mathematics and Science (TEAMS) Noyce Project's work in STEM engagement, teacher preparation, and workforce development in rural settings. 

By Tracie McLemore Salinas, Ph.D. Appalachian State University, with Kavita Mittapalli, Ph.D. and Nina de las Alas, MN Associates, Inc.


How did you get started working in the area of STEM engagement and workforce development?

I grew up on a farm where what is called STEM in formal schooling is just day-to-day knowledge. I wasn’t finding my school experiences and home experiences were ever connected. There was also little to no recognition at school for the kind of knowledge that my father and grandfather had. Eventually, I was drawn to the work of STEM engagement and workforce development as a way to bridge the divide between formal schooling knowledge and the less tangible cultural or experiential STEM knowledge that is in every community in some way. The Robert Noyce Scholarship program was a perfect fit for continuing that work in that it allowed us to prepare teachers for teaching in environments where engaging local STEM knowledge was particularly valuable.



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              What do you think is your most important learning in this area based on your project work to-date?

In our Noyce project, we saw what success the Department of Physics and Astronomy had, not just in recruiting but also in motivating research projects with licensure candidates. The department utilized an instructional assistance course to spark curiosity and interest in teaching and then focused students’ inquiry into pedagogical projects. This approach worked so well that our numbers in physics licensure, which had been near zero for at least five years, promptly increased to a fairly steady rate of 1-2 physics teachers produced per year. Additionally, we observed how helpful it was for our Noyce Scholars to be in clusters at the same high schools. Connecting mentoring teachers with beginning teachers and current licensure candidates created very powerful collaborations.