A $300,000 grant from the Martinson Family Foundation aims to improve the teaching of the STEM disciplines for P-12 teachers in New Jersey over the next three years.
Sean Ramsden

Rider’s Online STEM Core Curriculum Professional Development Certificate program addresses the shortage of STEM teachers.

The School of Education at Rider University has received a $300,000 grant from the Martinson Family Foundation to support a new initiative aimed at improving the teaching of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) disciplines for P-12 teachers in New Jersey over the next three years.

The grant will support Rider’s Online STEM Core Curriculum Professional Development Certificate program, which includes the creation of 12 new, online, graduate education courses in STEM – six in the math core curriculum and six in the science and design and technology curriculum, as well as additional professional development opportunities. The program officially began in July.

Despite numerous efforts to address the scarcity of STEM teachers, this shortage – both statewide and nationally – is well documented, and quality instruction in STEM areas remains an outstanding need. At the same time, fewer teachers are returning to college to obtain graduate degrees. Rider’s Online STEM Core Curriculum Professional Development Certificate program aims to reverse both trends.

“We are creating high quality online STEM courses for teachers and leaders using cutting-edge technology,” explained Dr. Sharon Sherman, dean of Rider’s School of Education, who added that the program uses Rider’s new Canvas Learning Management System to develop a technology-rich and interactive learning environment.

“By making outstanding content and pedagogy, as well as rigorous academic preparation accessible to a greater number of current teachers, and by seeking support and involvement from numerous school districts, this online core curriculum model will provide what’s needed to bring about significant improvement in STEM education,” she said.

Sherman also noted that with the common core standards being implemented in P-12 schools across the nation, and the Partnership for Assessment of College and Career Readiness (PARCC) assessments being developed to align with the common core, Rider is providing teachers and leaders with the tools they need to foster student achievement.

Components of the program include curricular development of inquiry-based math and science online graduate STEM courses; development of technical, design-based learning environment; and development of online professional development opportunities for teachers who are not ready to enroll in graduate courses.

Sherman estimates that some 180 teachers will complete the Online STEM Core Curriculum Professional Development courses over the next three years, and that more than 300 teachers will participate in five-hour online STEM professional development workshop opportunities during the same period.

“It’s an excellent opportunity for students who are graduating from college and going directly into teaching to continue their education while working to become more prepared in STEM early in their careers,” Sherman said. “This is a perfect opportunity for an elementary education teacher who seeks to gain middle school certification in mathematics or science. The biggest beneficiaries of the program will be the P-12 students who will be taught by highly qualified STEM teachers.”

The Martinson Family Foundation (MFF) supports educational initiatives encouraging P-12 match and science teachers to broaden their knowledge and skills through collaborative programs at nearby colleges and universities. MFF and Rider have been partners since 2003, when the foundation began funding teacher training programs at the University’s Science Education and Literacy Center (SELECT) and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Center for Science Teaching and Learning.

That support has continued with funding of multiple phases of the CONNECT-ED (CONsortium for New Explorations in Coherent Teacher EDucation) program, and the MFF continues to evaluate other Rider STEM initiatives based on their innovation, outstanding faculty, and proven outreach to local teachers.