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The Observer

Washington State Opportunity Scholarship grants CWU $2.2 million for STEM recruitment

Bryce Jungquist, Staff Reporter

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CWU is one of three Washington universities to receive part of a $6 million grant meant to recruit STEM teacher undergraduates.

The Washington State Opportunity Scholarship, chaired by Microsoft president, Brad Smith, awarded funds that will go directly towards training K-12 STEM teachers.

“We all lose out when an inspired student can’t pursue a [STEM] degree,” Smith sad in a LinkedIn post. “We need creative, efficient programs that remove barriers to higher education and enable students to go from an interest in STEM to a degree, a job and a career in these growing fields.”

The grant gives CWU $2.2 million to adopt a new curriculum that recruits and prepares undergraduate STEM majors to become teachers without adding time or cost to four-year degrees.

According to Jennifer Dechaine-Berkas, an associate professor of science education and biology, the program is currently in development and CWU administration will review it within the next two weeks.

There is a shortage of STEM teachers in Washington that has persisted over the past 20 years, according to Dechaine-Berkas.

“Fewer people have graduated with STEM teaching degrees than have stopped teaching science, technology, engineering or math, in the schools,” Dechaine-Berkas said.

The shortage has made it more difficult for districts to find good teachers specializing in STEM and the state is also having trouble locating more teachers in general.

Interim Executive Director of the School of Education, Mindie Dieu, said the teacher shortage is a problem throughout the county with almost a quarter million teachers needed.

“The new program is going to include some tuition waivers so students who take the introductory courses may be able to receive tuition waivers to help them. If a student is considering or is interested in potentially becoming a stem teacher, they would want to think about taking these introductory courses,” Dechaine-Berkas said.

Dieu said that the reason behind this is that the grant is aimed for the students and not just the different colleges.

“That’s probably why we were awarded this,” Dieu said. “Because you know what? Money isn’t everything, but it sure will help.”

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Washington State Opportunity Scholarship grants CWU $2.2 million for STEM recruitment