The Noyce Partnership for STEM Teachers

Posted by on November 9, 2014

By Dr. Victor Donnay, Dr. Bonnie Hallam and Liz Shriver

I interviewed Dr. Victor Donnay, Professor of Mathematics at Bryn Mawr College about his involvement in the Philadelphia Regional Noyce Partnership. He, along with colleagues at several institutions (Haverford College, Drexel University, LaSalle University, Saint Joseph’s University, Temple University, University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Education Fund), have successfully received two grants from the National Science Foundation to create collaborative work and heighten their impact STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math ) Education in the Philadelphia region. Noyce Scholars are pre-service teachers and master teachers who receive scholarship support for teacher education and continuing education. These new partnership grants are used for capacity building and collaboration among all the Noyce programs in the region. The Noyce program is funded by the National Science Foundation and seeks to encourage math and science majors to go into teaching in high-needs school districts.



The Philadelphia Noyce Regional Partnership Power Point:

Q: How did you get involved with Noyce?

A: In 2009, Bryn Mawr and Haverford received a Noyce grant to serve our students in the STEM fields who want to become math and science teachers. After we had been running our program for a couple of years, I was at a national math and science education meeting where I met one of the leaders of the University of Pennsylvania Math and Science Partnership, Jane Horwitz. Her program also had a Noyce grant, one that worked with master teachers in STEM who were developing content knowledge expertise and leadership skills. My program worked with undergraduate students. My students needed high quality placements and mentors and her students needed experiences in leadership.  We thought it would be great to collaborate and support each other.

This experience made us think of bringing together all the Noyce programs in Philadelphia. We had our first meeting with Temple, Drexel, Penn, Bryn Mawr, St. Joseph’s and LaSalle. Everyone was excited about this idea and could see ways that through a partnership we could provide more for our students than we could do individually.

We came together very quickly as a coalition and applied for a capacity building Noyce grant in spring 2011.  We included in the partnership the Philadelphia Education Fund, which had expertise in bringing groups of education stakeholders in the region together, and their Philadelphia Teacher Residency Program, which was working with Penn’s Noyce program. We got excellent reviews of our proposal. The reviewers liked the idea of building a partnership in a common urban area. It seemed like a great way to share resources and make a bigger impact   STEM education. The reviewers thought our collaborative efforts would be helpful as a national model for how to create regional impact.  The next phase, once we received the grant, was finding out what we could do together.

Q: What collaborative strategies have you worked on?

A: There are several collaborative efforts that we use to support our NOYCE scholars and the schools where they teach:

We put on central workshops for our new practicing teachers and for our pre-service undergraduate teachers. These workshops are on issues of common concern to teachers such as classroom management. These workshops are economically efficient because in drawing from our regional Noyce network, we have a critical mass of participants. They are also positive because Noyce scholars get to meet one another, and they now have a network of people with whom they can share experiences. This is a very powerful outcome. This partnership also helps scholars who are part of smaller programs become part of a bigger effort. For example, because we are a small program, over the past six years Bryn Mawr has only had 12 scholars but we have about 150 across all of the Noyce Partners, which creates a more robust, supportive community.

We also establish pathways for leadership. Noyce Scholars who are master teachers mentor pre-service teachers, run workshops, support upcoming teachers and grow as leaders. Creating these levels of leadership also help our pre-service teachers see that there is a pathway to grow in their field as well as ways to obtain peer support.

We also use our entire cohort of Noyce alumni to find student-teaching positions for new Noyce Scholars. Along those lines, when one of our Noyce teachers hears about an open position at their school we share it centrally. That way our new teachers are able to network and teach in schools with other Noyce Scholars.

Q: 150 teachers is still a relatively small program. How has your partnership helped to expand the knowledge about Noyce Scholars in Philadelphia?

A: We hope to raise the profile of the Noyce program in the city. For the past two years, we’ve worked with the head of HR for STEM at the School District of Philadelphia. We wanted to know what direction the School District was taking since the goal for NOYCE Scholars is to be placed in high needs schools. For each one-year of scholarship, NOYCE Scholars are expected to teach for two years in a high needs district. It was easier for the School District to connect with us and value the impact we are having when we came to them as a partnership that includes many institutions. When we talk to principals individually we also let them know that we provide resources to support our teachers to be successful and to keep them teaching in high needs schools.

Q: How do you maintain your partnership and establish new ways to collaborate?

A: We have monthly meetings with all the partners on the grant. We start with updates about each program and developments we know about in the region. Information sharing alone has been very helpful.

For the first year we had to determine what to focus on and how to use evaluation to focus our efforts. We had an outside facilitator to help us establish the right direction and help us to reach our collaborative goals. As signs of buy-in for our meetings, we have excellent attendance, and we’ve made our limited grant resources go further than we originally expected.

Beyond using our collaborative grant funds for this work, our individual Noyce programs have started co-funding events. Individual Noyce programs also put on their own events and make them available to everyone in the partnership. For example, Scholars from around the region can attend events hosted by Drexel or St. Joseph’s. This year, most of our individual Noyce grants will be ending so we are also working on how to keep our collaboration going and to build on our successes.

Q: What are the most significant common issues that you’ve addressed?

A: We learned in our first two years of work that the most important need to fill is supporting new teachers in the first two years of teaching, especially in urban districts.

To address this need, we applied for a second capacity building grant to build a regional new teacher support program. We support our Noyce scholars before they are teaching full-time, and now we’re working to build a unified regional program to support these teachers to stay in the classroom. For the next two years our focus will be building this new teacher support program. We looked to models in our region that would help with creating high quality mentorship for new teachers. We are now working with the Philadelphia Education Fund’s Teacher Residency program.

Through the partnership, our Bryn Mawr Noyce program learned about the Philadelphia Teacher Residency Program (PTR) and what it has to offer. As a result, our Noyce program now contracts with PTR to provide mentoring for our Noyce scholars when they begin teaching. Making use of PTR’s expertise and network of connections is much more efficient than having our small Bryn Mawr Noyce program hire, train and supervise our own mentors.  Other Noyce partners are doing this as well now. Going forward, we will build on what PEF does by helping our Scholars create an individualized support plan. We will then set up workshops to address common needs that we find within these plans.

Social and emotional support is another component of new teacher sustainability that we’re excited about developing. At our new teacher kickoff event this past September, the feedback we received was that having a safe space, sharing ideas, knowing they aren’t the only one was very useful. Teachers are very busy, so we are constantly assessing the best way for them to take advantage of these supports. We are exploring creating on-line support at, our website.

Q: Does any of your collaborative work support the region as a whole?

A: Yes. The region has a huge need for high quality STEM education, and we try to share resources across universities as much as possible. For example, it’s beneficial for all of us to have more mentor teachers in STEM fields. We want to create a New STEM Teacher Support Center. Through this center, teachers beyond our Noyce programs could gain support. Education programs are now required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to follow up with graduates. Our goal is to use the mentoring program that we have in place and professional development offered at this center to create a robust support system.

Right now, our experienced mentors are creating a training program for new mentors. We want to ensure that at every school to which we send our Scholars there is a trained, supportive mentor. Research about mentor teachers shows it is important to have someone right down the hall. For the School District, our training and support programs are a long-term value. A School District official will be joining our advisory board so that our training will mesh with what the School District is doing. For example, they are using the Danielson framework. Our new mentors will be using this framework so these efforts are aligned.

We also are able to use our Noyce partnership to benefit STEM organizations in the city. Fairmount Parks Waterworks has a program that is working with middle school teachers to develop and teach classroom lessons on water issues. Their Education Director needed college students to serve as assistants and classroom aids to the teachers. She was able to use our network of university STEM education programs to recruit for her program. This was mutually beneficial for us and for her program.

Q: What will help the Noyce Scholars Partnership continue to succeed and grow?

A: As we determine how to best sustain our work, we’re beginning to think about which organizations in the region have a stake in improving STEM education. We’d like to think that when our multiple universities work together for a common goal that this gives funders confidence that our partnership will have a lasting impact on STEM education in the region. We want to support the needs of the region and be responsive to trends in the School District so that our Scholars and all STEM teachers will be life-long teachers, leaders and mentors. We are presently looking for other colleges and universities in the region that would like to join our STEM education partnership.


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