Recipients of the inaugural Mathematics Teacher-Leaders Honors Program scholarships are interning this year at area high schools.
Dr. Mark Causapin, assistant professor of mathematics, was excited to share that they were able to recruit six students for the first cohort of Noyce scholars.
In March 2020, Concordia College was awarded a $1.2 million National Science Foundation Robert Noyce Teaching Scholarship grant to implement the Mathematics Teacher-Leaders Honors Program. The program goals are to address the critical shortage of mathematics teachers in rural school districts in Minnesota and North Dakota and produce teachers who will be leaders in both their schools and in the field of mathematics education.
“For this program, they’re given scholarships and top-notch training so they can work in high-needs schools as math teachers when they graduate,” Causapin said.
All juniors, Molly Wilde, Emily Miller, and Nelson Weniger are interning at Detroit Lakes High School (D.L.), Detroit Lakes, Minn., while David Miller, Isaac Fisher, and Samantha Holmberg are at Fargo North High School, Fargo, N.D. The six are working with two recipients of Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching: Concordia grad Lisa Conzemius ’89 at D.L. and Michelle Bertsch at Fargo North.
Conzemius, in her 32nd year of teaching, has been at D.L. since 1994. She previously taught at Pine Island, Minn., and Huron, S.D.
“It’s been fun to see the inquisitiveness of the interns who have been working with me,” Conzemius said. “We have dealt with learner outcomes, planning lessons, and discussed how to make lessons more engaging for students.”
Bertsch said the students working with her are beginning to see the importance of developing positive relationships and gaining students’ trust. They’re also developing an appreciation for the time and energy required of teachers — from lesson creation, to creating and implementing engaging games and activities that enhance student learning, to writing and appropriately scoring standards-based assessments.
David Miller agreed with Bertsch, saying that he’s grown a newfound respect for teachers and the work they put in.
“From starting this program, I realized the extent of what teachers do to teach their students,” he said. “This program has already taught me so much regarding school structure, thoughtful lessons, and classroom management. I am thoroughly optimistic in how this program will prepare me for the future and I am grateful for this opportunity.”
Bertsch said the interns have also been exposed to IEPs (Individualized Education Programs) and intervention programs for those students who may require additional support to be successful academically.
“I am excited for the interns, as the authentic exposure and immersion they are receiving as a result of being a part of the program will help to give them the tools, strategies, and confidence necessary to be successful when they have classrooms of their own,” Bertsch said. “It has been a joy and pleasure to work with Samantha, Isaac, and David. To see them interact with the students and become comfortable in the secondary classroom is a joy.”
Emily Miller said she was excited to be a part of the program.
“The internships will help us gain knowledge into how to become a successful teacher,” she said. “I have learned many new concepts and aspects of teaching that I would have never known if I would not have had this incredible experience.”
“Interning in Detroit Lakes has been very eye-opening and exciting. I cannot wait until I get to have my own classroom so I can implement the lessons that I am learning,” she added. “One of the best parts is that we get to see the students multiple times a week for a whole semester, so we really get to watch how the students grow in just a little time.”
Wilde said the Math Teacher-Leaders Honors Program has helped her education, her passion for the career, her knowledge about the career, and more.
“My eyes have been opened to the opportunities and possibilities in becoming a teacher along with the knowledge of how to be the best teacher I can be,” she said.
The National Science Foundation (NSF), promotes science and funds research conducted at U.S. colleges and universities and the Noyce program supports science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) undergraduate majors and professionals to become effective K-12 STEM teachers. The Noyce program was named for Robert Noyce (1927-1990), co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel, who invented the integrated circuit or microchip, which set off the computing revolution that still continues to this day.
Concordia plans to produce 16 highly qualified mathematics teacher-leaders within five years, with degrees in both mathematics and education, who will work in high-need schools.
“I know I will be looking back on this program and what I learned through my time in it as long as I am a teacher,” Wilde said.