Preparing Rural Missouri Teachers with STEM-Focused Education

Missouri S&T's teacher education program connects a University's unique assets with a rural region.

March 10, 2020 |
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Missouri S&T Teacher Education Students volunteer to support a rural community Friday Backpack Program.

Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Missouri, is well known for its excellent engineering programs. But the university’s STEM-focused atmosphere is also benefitting students in Missouri S&T’s new department of teacher education and certification.

At Missouri S&T, students seeking high school teaching certification earn a bachelor’s degree in their content area while taking the education courses required for certification. Over 100 students are currently pursuing educator certification in elementary or a secondary content area such as math. Many of those students started in another discipline, but switched to education after realizing their desire to give back to communities and teach a subject they enjoy.

Currently, 40 S&T graduates from the last ten years are teaching in Missouri public schools, most of them in the rural areas surrounding Rolla, Missouri. Graduates of the program have won teaching awards and become principals. The elementary program, which started in 2014, has a unique STEM focus with Project Lead the Way training embedded in coursework. PLTW develops and trains elementary, middle and high school teachers to use its STEM curricula, and their Lead Teacher Training is a train-the-trainer model designed to develop instructional leaders.

The new S&T department is also active in outreach with rural school districts in the area. One S&T class visited a small elementary school to teach STEM lessons that they designed. The experience helped the preservice teachers practice designing and implementing lessons for a variety of grade levels, and the teachers in the school observed the use of the technology in the lessons. Another elementary school brought second grade students to campus for a field trip, where they visited different departments to complete activities, including making ice cream with physics professors. S&T professors have always enjoyed making their research accessible to the general public, but the teacher education and certification departments offers a new opportunity to reach elementary school children.

Newburg, Missouri students participate in a Missouri S&T tech-laden field trip.

As S&T’s name suggests, technology is an integral part of the program. Students participate in training targeted at specific tools used in school districts, and the department has a small set of iPads and Chromebooks for checkout and use in classes. The department also draws on the expertise of the South Central Regional Professional Development Center located on S&T’s campus. Teacher education students and faculty can attend workshops there for free. Teacher education students also have the opportunity to participate in research experiences with faculty, both in their content departments and in education. They often join one of S&T’s 20 student design teams for experiential learning with projects ranging from a Mars rover to a solar house. The students can network with industry professionals who help them advance their creative projects.

At Missouri S&T, education students graduate with the skills they need to become great teachers and pass on their love of STEM subjects.

Editor's Note: The Rural Schools Collaborative is pleased to share Missouri S&T's good story, and we invite you to learn about the other fine efforts that are part of RSC's Rural Teacher Corps Network.Thank you to Beth Kania-Gosche for preparing this article! Beth leads the Missouri S&T teacher education program.

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