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Rural schools to benefit from federal grant

Three rural school districts will get a boost to provide students with knowledge and skills to enter Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers through a grant awarded to three state educational institutions.

The nearly $200,000 grant from the US Department of Education was awarded to Emporia State University, Pittsburg State University, and the Southwest Plains Regional Service Center to partner with rural high-needs elementary schools in Neodesha, Independence, and Dodge City. The project title is “MASTERS – Mathematics and Science Teaching Excellence in Rural Schools.”

“Teachers in rural schools experience professional isolation and lack access to high quality professional development opportunities,” said Dr. Ken Weaver, Dean of The Teachers College at Emporia State. “Teachers may not be familiar with current pedagogies for teaching STEM content and shrinking education budgets diminish STEM-specific professional development. This grant reflects The Teachers College’s commitment that all students regardless of where they live have effective teachers who ensure that students are learning STEM content.”

“These schools have a high percentage of students living in poverty and, in the Dodge City schools, are English Language Learners,” said Dr. Matt Seimears, chair of the early childhood/elementary/special education department at Emporia State. “Teachers will benefit from professional development modeling culturally-sensitive and diversified instruction connecting demanding conceptual concepts to create concrete, interrelated experiences and real-world applications.”

Forty teachers from the three school districts in southeast and southwest Kansas school districts will gain the content knowledge and instructional confidence needed to apply integrated STEM lessons in the classroom, resulting in improved student learning and engagement in mathematics and science.

“Our goal is, at the end of this 12-month process, to have those teachers be strong in their knowledge of mathematics and science, be better able to integrate math and science instruction in their classrooms, and – most importantly – increase student learning and engagement in the STEM content areas,” Seimears said.