Two young math/science teachers win $175,000 grants aimed at bolstering STEM education

Two young math and science teachers fresh from UC Berkeley’s CalTEACH program have won $175,000 fellowships designed to help them remain in the teaching profession over the long term.

Andrea Negrete, Andrew McCartyThe two, Andrea Negrete of the Central Valley town of Parlier and Andrew McCarty of Redwood City, both 2012 Berkeley graduates, are among 34 beginning high-school teachers in 19 states selected for Knowles Science Teaching Foundation fellowships for 2012.

Both CalTEACH and the Knowles program are part of a nationwide effort to fill a big gap in American schooling by supporting teaching in what are known as the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math.

Berkeley’s CalTEACH program, which graduated its first credentialed teacher in 2011 and its first full cohort of students this year, places undergraduates in local classrooms to beef up math and science education and to serve as college-going role models.

Knowles tackles a different part of the problem: supporting teachers as they established themselves in fields where half of all teachers leave within the first five years. The fellowships cover the first five years of teachers’ careers; Negrete and McCarty will take part in a program that includes professional development, teaching tools and materials and access to a nationwide network of their peers.

At Berkeley, both received National Science Foundation-funded Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarships, aimed at bolstering math and science education in K-12, while at Berkeley. And both graduated with an unswerving commitment to teaching.

The daughter of recent immigrants from Mexico, Negrete is a strong advocate of higher education as a path for her community’s advancement. She’s also a crack mathematician.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in math as well as her teaching credential at Berkeley. As a Robert Noyce Teacher Scholar, she has served as an instructor in elementary and middle schools in Oakland and Richmond through the East Bay Academy of Young Scientists. As a teacher, she says, she hopes to “challenge my students to learn the practicality of mathematics, give them the tools they may need to succeed in our society and bridge the gap of inequities in our educational system.”

She told her local newspaper, the Fresno Bee, that she will be back at Berkeley in the fall, earning a master’s in math education in the Graduate School of Education. In addition, she will be teaching one or two classes and is looking for a position in a nearby school.

McCarty earned his bachelor’s degree in astrophysics and his teaching credential at Berkeley, and maintains his fascination with how the world works — an enthusiasm he’s proven able to pass along to students as a high-school peer tutor, a teaching assistant to his high-school physics teacher and a Robert Noyce scholar. He has built his own telescope and traveled to Yosemite and Death Valley to look at the stars.

Of his hope to teach high-school physics, McCarty says that “I particularly want to work with high-risk populations to help reduce the achievement gap.” He, too, is looking for a teaching job in the fall, and hopes to find one in the Bay Area.

CalTEACH, says McCarty, provided critical in-class teaching experience, “as well as a wonderful, supportive and collaborative community.” He remains in touch with his CalTEACH cohort and exchanges curriculum ideas with members online.

Program director Elisa Stone says she and others involved with CalTEACH are thrilled about the fellowships.

“We’re really proud of the students for being recognized for being so well-qualified and having great leadership potential,” Stone said. “And we are excited that they will have access to this professional development and the ability to connect nationwide, beyond UC Berkeley and beyond California.”

The students will continue to get campus support, too, through a new program for first-year teachers called CalTEACH Transitions, funded by JP Morgan Chase. It offers workshops, discussion groups, peer examination of student work and reflection on teaching, according to Stone.