WCU center for math, science receives mentoring grant

Western Carolina University has been awarded $299,593 through the NC QUEST grant program for a project titled “Mentoring for Meaning in Math and Science.” The primary goal of the initiative is to build a strong network of teacher leadership for mathematics and science in grades six through 12.

“There is a problem in North Carolina, as well as nationwide, with retaining new math and science teachers in the classroom beyond their second or third year,” said Elaine Franklin, director of WCU’s Center for Mathematics and Science Education. “Research indicates that ongoing support from mentors who teach in the same content area can make a difference in terms of the success of novice teachers.”

Franklin is the project director. Mentoring for Meaning is a collaborative project between WCU and six school districts in Western North Carolina: Asheville City, Cherokee County, Jackson County, Macon County, Madison County and Yancey County. Co-directors from WCU are Janice Holt, director of WCU’s Center for Support of Beginning TeachersAxelle Faughn, assistant professor of mathematics and mathematics education; and Kefyn Catley, associate professor of biology and science education. The project will begin this summer with a weeklong institute focusing on inquiry as a method of teaching science and math.

Many novice teachers have mentors, but resources are not available for the new teachers to observe or plan with their mentors, said Franklin. “The preparation of mentors for their role in supporting novices is not consistent and, in many cases, not adequately funded. This project targets many of these key areas of concern,” she said.

The initiative is designed to address four critical areas of need: strengthening the content and pedagogical knowledge of novice mathematics and science teachers; increasing the retention rate of novice mathematics and science teachers; transforming the role of mentor-teacher to that of instructional leader; and fostering a culture of inquiry in middle and high school mathematics and science classrooms.

“Rather than design an additional layer or mentorship, Mentoring for Meaning will work directly with those teachers who are already mentoring novice math and science teachers in grades six through 12,” said Franklin. “The project provides approximately 60 hours of professional development for mentor teachers, stipends for their participation during the summer or outside the regular school day, substitute pay that will allow the mentors and novices time to work and plan together, and a budget for materials both the mentor and novice can use in their classrooms.”

Ongoing support will be provided by WCU through e-mentoring; an Internet portal; content and pedagogical assistance by WCU faculty; and a project coordinator who will work directly with the mentors and novices throughout the year. The grant provides funding for up to 30 teachers, who must submit an application to participate in the project.

For more information about Mentoring for Meaning or WCU’s Center for Math and Science Education, contact Franklin by telephone at (828) 227-3318 or via e-mail at efranklin@email.wcu.edu.