Grants help teachers in short supply subject fields - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Grants help teachers in short supply subject fields


WATERLOO (KWWL) -- All across the country, schools are having a tough time finding math and science teachers.  Here's part of the reason why.  In August 2009, the Iowa Department of Education reported that 214 math teachers were ready for retirement, while only 120 new math teachers were projected to graduate in the state.  In the area of physics, the numbers are even grimmer:  101 retirements and just 16 new graduates.

But now, there's a new program helping to recruit people into teaching in these high demand fields.  So far this school year, Iowa Student Loan has provided signing bonuses to a dozen first-year educators who are now teaching in designated shortage fields like math, science and special education.  And school districts hope the grants will be an added incentive for students to consider becoming teachers.

Science and math are two subject areas that students often struggle to succeed in and enjoy. 

"One thing is just getting more kids into those fields in the first place," said Sharon Miller with Waterloo Community Schools.

But for those kids who do get a kick out of classes like anatomy and calculus, it can be tough to entice them into teaching rather than more lucrative careers using those skills.

"Recruiting them into teaching may be an extra challenge because sometimes we're not able to pay what the private sector would pay an engineer, for example," Miller said.

That's where Iowa Student Loan comes in.  It's now awarding grants to those that choose to tackle teaching what are typically not-so-popular subjects.  Derek Kimball teaches math at Waterloo East High and is one of the first grant recipients, getting $2000 to jump start his career.

"Every once in a while I come across something that's like, 'Oh this would be nice, you know,' and I have the funds to be able to do that, to go and get something to help out with my teaching," Kimball said.

And the grant dollars are flexible.  Teachers can use the cash for anything from buying classroom supplies to paying of student loan debt.  In the end, it's a little extra incentive to help new teachers be successful.

School districts are hoping that the grant program will stick around for years to come, so it can be used as a recruitment tool for students considering careers in education.  Iowa Student Loan still has about 50 new teacher grants to award for this school year for educators in the following shortage areas:  mathematics, science, English as a second language, English/language arts, talented and gifted, music, agriculture, family and consumer science, health, foreign languages, industrial technology, early childhood, special education, and middle school social studies.

To learn more about applying for the grant, click here.      

KWWL Reporter:  Kera Mashek

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