(Carson, CA) – The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) Foundation a grant of more than $2.9 million to create a Master Teacher Fellows program, with the goal of developing exemplary teacher-leaders in science and mathematics for high-need K-12 schools.
The Master Teacher Fellows (MTF) program is a partnership between CSUDH, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) – Local District South, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. The six-year grant was awarded through the NSF’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program.
The MTF’s goals are to increase participants’ content knowledge and pedagogical and leadership skills in mathematics and science. In turn, they will teach and work in LAUSD to help improve student achievement in low-performing, hard-to-staff schools that enroll high percentages of low-income students who are historically underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.
“I am so happy for our university and for the thousands of K-12 students in high-need schools who will benefit directly and indirectly from this project,” said Kamal Hamdan, Annenberg-endowed professor, director of CISE, and principal investigator for the NSF grant. “The project has the potential to have a tremendous impact on the preparation of students, our future Toros, as they prepare for their undergraduate education at CSUDH.”
The Master Teacher Fellows program will be led by CSUDH faculty members Kenneth Rodriguez, assistant professor of chemistry; Kathryn Theiss, assistant professor of biology; and Kristen Stagg, assistant professor of mathematics, and content and instructional experts from LAUSD – Local District South and the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum.
The Master Teacher Fellows program encourages participation by teachers with strong leadership potential, particularly those with similar demographics as the communities they will serve. The MTF will recruit 30 in-service teachers who will receive financial and other support as they complete a rigorous five-year program to achieve master teacher competencies.
MTF fellows will serve as role models to their peers, and for many young adults in the communities they serve, as well as inspire them to pursue a career or teach in a STEM subject, says Kenneth Rodriguez, assistant professor of chemistry at CSUDH.
“A fellow with leadership ability will inspire others to follow suit,” said Rodriguez. “During their five years in the MTF project, they will not only improve their teaching practice and the achievement of their own students, they will also inspire their peers to pursue professional growth so they too can have an impact on their own students’ achievements.”
The MTF will support one cohort of secondary mathematics and science teachers, and one cohort of elementary teachers, while testing the effectiveness of a research-based training model for master STEM teachers that encourages interdisciplinary, standards- and project-based approaches. As master teachers, the fellows will be prepared to collectively improve STEM teaching and achievement in 23 schools in South Los Angeles that enroll more than 18,200 students, of which 85 percent are low-income, 74 percent are Latinx, and 10 percent are African American.
The Natural History Museum will offer a three-day workshop about climate change in Southern California for each cohort, which will include a field trip for fellows to collect geologic evidence. The museum will also offer a one-week trip to an active dinosaur quarry in Utah to work alongside scientists collecting fossils, knowledge that they can share with student mentees and their peers.
“We at CSUDH recognize the critical need to transform STEM education and pave the way for teachers to engage and inspire the next generation of engineers, astronomers, mathematicians, physicists, and space explorers,” said Hamdan. “It is a challenge we have embraced and owned, and through the new project, we are going to lead the way in achieving such a transformation, so all children can achieve their aspirations.”