UMaine Receives NSF Award

The award helps rural schools recruit, educate and train STEM teachers.

June 28, 2024 |

Izge Bayyurt, a Master of Science in Teaching student and graduate research assistant with the University of Maine College of Education and Human Development's Immersive Mathematics in Rendered Environments Lab, assists an incoming freshman student with a virtual reality headset during UMaine's New Student Orientation on June 20, 2024. Photo courtesy University of Maine.

Congratulations to RSC's New England Hub Partner, University of Maine, on a new grant to support rural STEM teachers! UMaine is one of RSC's 2023-2024 Catalyst Grant awardees who received a $25,000 planning grant to strengthen their Rural Teacher Corps efforts that recruit, prepare, and retain rural educators. We're so proud of their continued progress!

Original article published on The University of Maine’s News outlet.

June 27, 2024

With rural schools facing significant shortages of highly-qualified teachers, particularly those in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, the University of Maine College of Education and Human Development will use a grant from the National Science Foundation to boost support for future and current STEM educators in rural school districts.

The nearly $100,000 award is part of NSF’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, designed to support talented undergraduate STEM majors in becoming effective K-12 teachers, as well as to help practicing educators in areas with recruitment challenges become STEM master teachers.

“One of the primary reasons for STEM teacher shortages is low enrollment in initial licensure programs in math, physical science and life science. Rural schools run into additional hurdles due to limited local populations, budget constraints and issues recruiting experienced teachers,” said Ezekiel Kimball, associate dean for undergraduate and teacher education in the College of Education and Human Development.

Kimball is principal investigator of “Rural Reimagining of Opportunities for Undergraduate Teacher Education in STEM: A Capacity Building Project.” The year-long initiative will involve developing a survey to examine what motivates undergraduate students to choose STEM or teacher education majors, hosting workshops with school district partners to create rural focused teacher licensure pathways, and conducting market research with rural STEM and education majors to determine best strategies for boosting their licensure. The efforts are intended to support a future proposal designed to create innovative new pathways to initial licensure. Catharine Biddle, an associate professor of educational leadership and director of the School of Educational Leadership, Higher Education and Human Development, and Mohamad Musavi, associate dean of the Maine College of Engineering and Computing, are collaborating with Kimball on the project.

“Boosting the rural STEM teacher workforce in Maine and beyond will strengthen local and regional economies as these educators inspire young people to pursue careers in science, engineering and math-related fields,” Biddle said. “We’re excited to partner with rural districts and communities to develop a set of best practices around the recruitment, training and retention of these vital classroom teachers.”

The project, expected to launch in the fall, aligns with several other initiatives led by the UMaine College of Education and Human Development. That includes the New England Rural Education Hub, a partnership with the nonprofit Rural Schools Collaborative to advance preparation and professional development of high-quality teachers and school leaders throughout the Northeast, as well as cutting-edge research on the use of artificial intelligence and virtual reality in K-12 classrooms.

UMaine is also embarking on a new initiative called the Rural Educator Resilience Project to expand professional development, mentoring and other evidence-based resources for rural teachers and administrators statewide. Faculty and staff from the College of Education and Human Development will work with other University of Maine System campuses on the project. The System received $3.3 million in Congressionally Directed Spending included in a federal budget bill passed earlier this year, secured for UMS at the request of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and U.S. Sen. Angus King.

Contact: Casey Kelly,