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Four nontraditional students enrolled in the Alternative Careers in Teaching (act!) program were awarded Robert Noyce stipends of $13,000 to help them transition into careers as much-needed middle and high school mathematics or science teachers in high-needs districts.

This semester’s stipend recipients are Pamela Josifek, Elizabeth Podlasek, Bernadette Scheller and Kimberly Wagner.

A collaboration between the UW Oshkosh College of Education and Human Services and UW Colleges, the act! program enables nontraditional students with science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics (STEM) backgrounds and five years’ professional experience to work toward initial teaching licensure in math or science.

Funds for the Robert Noyce stipends, which are awarded bi-annually, come from National Science Foundation grants awarded to the act! program and help defray students’ academic and personal expenses.

“Most non-traditional students going back to school are able to take their courses while remaining employed. But the 18-week student teaching requirement of the program means the nontraditional student must leave a job,” said Kimberly Wagner, who is working toward achieving math licensure. “For my family, the stipend has reduced the financial burden of going back to be a teacher.”

Bernadette Scheller agrees with Wagner.

“Receiving the Noyce stipend means that I can complete the program, receive my teaching license and share my passion for the sciences,” she said.

“The Noyce Grant is an exceptional opportunity to support adult, nontraditional students in the act! program. It is gratifying to assist these applicants in bringing their unique knowledge and experiences to careers as math or science teachers,” said Mike Beeth, Curriculum and Instruction Professor and co-coordinator of the act! program.

To date, 34 students have received a total of $390,000 from one of the two Robert Noyce National Science Foundation grants awarded to the act! program. The program expects to award the remaining $860,000 from these grants to other act! students in the future.

“This program recognizes that experienced business professionals like me have skills, knowledge and experiences we have gained outside the classroom and has given us credit for it,” Wagner said. “I would recommend this type of program to other non-traditional students seeking to be a certified teacher of math or science.”

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