Grant helps Rider expand STEM offerings for teachers' professional development

New program includes courses, events and collaborations

A new program at Rider University offers courses and professional development opportunities to help teachers in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), as well as advanced training aimed at providing instruction to students who are gifted and talented.

The Gateway to STEM Creativity and Innovation in the Classroom program, funded by a grant from the Martinson Family Foundation, includes two newly created graduate-level gifted education courses and an increase in the number of online course offerings in STEM and gifted education.

Rider also recently announced it is collaborating with U.S. Satellite Laboratory and NASA to offer new online courses through the Endeavor STEM Teaching Certificate Project.

“Teachers can either take a five-course STEM professional development certificate with these courses or they can get a Master of Arts in Teacher Leadership at Rider and use the Endeavor courses as their STEM concentration,” says Christine Laquidara-Kolvek '01, who is managing the grant. "Students interested in becoming teachers have to be ready to pursue lifelong learning because things are changing so quickly, especially in the STEM area."

Dr. Judith Stegmaier-Nappi, assistant professor in the Department of Graduate Education, Leadership and Counseling, is program director for the Teacher Leadership program. Dr. Kathleen Pierce, professor in the Department of Graduate Education, Leadership and Counseling, is program director for the Master of Arts in Teaching. According to Dean of the College of Education and Human Services Dr. Sharon Sherman, “Both graduate programs offer students the option of selecting STEM courses as a focus of study. This helps us achieve our mission of addressing the state and national shortage of STEM teachers.”

Last year, Laquidara-Kolvek retired from the Hopewell Valley Regional School District after working there for 16 years, going from assistant principal to principal to director of curriculum and instruction, and finally, assistant superintendent. Her retirement lasted only six months before she was enticed to take the job at Rider, where she earned a master's in educational administration with a principal certification.

Laquidara-Kolvek has emphasized creating new professional development activities. “We want to help teachers feel more comfortable with STEM and gifted education by giving them a small taste of what they can learn at Rider,” she says.

Some of the events Laquidara-Kolvek has organized have included a professional development day with the National Inventors Hall of Fame, as well as a gifted education symposium. She is also planning to have U.S. Satellite Laboratory lead professional development sessions “so that teachers can see how we’re using the NASA data from their satellites to help enrich their STEM classes.”

Laquidara-Kolvek began her career in education at a women’s prison in Clinton, N.J., and was eventually hired as the director of the Office of Educational Services of the New Jersey Department of Corrections. What she finds most satisfying about her current job is being able to work with young teachers as they continue their education and further their careers.

“Even when I was a principal and then later director of curriculum and assistant superintendent, one of my primary roles was staff development,” she says. “I love helping teachers feel more empowered and gain more knowledge and that’s exactly what this job does — it helps teachers be better in the classroom and engage students more effectively.”