STEM Teacher Education Learning Community (STELC)

students socializing on the stairs outside of the dining hall

As a new NKSP initiative, we have implemented a STEM Teacher Education Learning Community (STELC), a collaborative effort between the College of Arts & Sciences and the School of Education. The mission of STELC is to build an inclusive and nurturing support network among pre-service STEM teacher education students, in-service STEM teachers, and STEM and Education faculty and peer mentors to create an integrated academic and social experience through experiential learning opportunities. STELC will help NKSP scholars develop a sense of cohesiveness among the STELC members who are both undergraduate STEM students and MAT students under one roof, thus forming a collaborative platform in STEM teacher education at BU. STELC will provide a new ecosystem and synergy in STEM teacher education among the NKSP collaborative partners that include, Jefferson County Public School District (JCPS), Jefferson Community and Technical College (JCTC), Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), STEM Academies of Louisville, the Kentucky Science Center (KSC), and the University of Kentucky (UK).

All NKSP scholars will be required to join STELC. STELC will host both formal and informal (out-of-classroom) activities which will offer STEM students with opportunities to take part in shared curricular and non-curricular activities in STEM education who might otherwise not have considered a career in STEM teaching and also to provide support for NKSP scholars/teachers. One of STELC’s goal is to create a culture of success in high-need public schools by our future NKSP teachers, that can lead to student learning gains in diverse classrooms. Another goal of STELC is create close interactions and foster community-building among the NKSP scholars who can study and learn together by sharing knowledge in a collaborative environment. This can create long lasting peer relationships. Upon graduation, NKSP scholars will become professional members of STELC as NKSP teachers.

STELC will provide access to a network of individuals who can offer guidance/advice on resources and support for those who may face unique challenges because of economic, cultural, educational, or other circumstances, such as on-campus support for minority and first-generation NKSP scholars in adjusting to the challenges of college life. STELC will also set up an online mentoring community that will continue with the new NKSP induction teachers and will involve online communication, resources, and lesson plan sharing. NKSP faculty will meet with NKSP scholars once a month as a group. STELC will have a Facebook group page.

STEM Maker Fair: As part of this NKSP project, STELC will host an annual STEM Maker Fair event (an enrichment opportunity to showcase creativity and innovation) in partnership with the Kentucky Science Center for Bellarmine and KCTCS community college students, that will also include participation of students from the STEM Academies of Louisville. NKSP scholars in their senior and MAT years will be required to participate at the annual STEM Maker Fair event, which will give them the opportunity to showcase their creativity by developing an engaging hands-on project, experiment or science demonstrations and engage in conversations with other STEM students, that is bound to inspire their interest in STEM teaching. This STEM Maker Fair event will also create a recruitment pipeline for NKSP.

Internship in STEM Education at the Kentucky Science Center: STELC will also assist with NKSP’s summer internship in STEM Education for one month at the Kentucky Science Center. Such pre-service internship experiences are bound to have a positive impact as we prepare our NKSP scholars to become effective STEM teachers. Each NKSP intern will receive $1250 for this internship – a stipend of $800 (20 hours/week for four-weeks at $10/hour) and $450 as subsistence towards housing expenses for one month.

One of STELC’s goals is to serve the national need of preparing and retaining highly qualified STEM teachers who can implement culturally responsive instruction in diverse classrooms. Over the past few decades, student demographics, their experiences, upbringings, and backgrounds have changed. K-12 classrooms are more diverse today. Students of color comprise nearly half of the student population, yet the demographic composition of teachers has changed little and does not reflect the demographic make of today’s classrooms. So, there is a demographic gap between K-12 teachers and students. About 85% of teachers are Caucasian who are teaching K-12 students of varying races, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and cultural background and hence new STEM teachers need preparedness in culturally responsive teaching (CRT) and understanding of diverse cultural perspectives. According to the Department of Education, an increasing proportion of the students of color come from homes that are culturally and linguistically diverse. Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board (KY-EPSB) now requires all new certified teachers to understand individual differences and ethnically diverse cultures and communities. Since the K-12 student population is increasingly becoming culturally and ethnically diverse, STELC will ensure that NKSP scholars can adapt to a culturally responsive teaching style in their classrooms in high need schools and be conversant in teaching across cultural boundaries. STELC will ensure that NKSP scholars demonstrate an ability to effectively teach culturally diverse students prior to graduation. When integrated into K-12 classroom instruction, CRT strategies can strengthen students’ sense of identity, promote equity and inclusivity in the classroom. Preparing culturally responsive teachers involves, (1) transforming preservice teachers’ multicultural attitudes, (2) increasing their culturally diverse knowledge base, and (3) equipping them with the skills needed to effectively teach culturally diverse students.

CRT Seminars/Workshops: In order to develop the cultural competence and disposition needed to succeed teaching in high need schools, STELC will require all NKSP scholars to obtain training in CRT by actively participating in the following activities to support the production of qualified and well-trained middle and high-school STEM teachers with CRT practices:

  • Hosted by STELC, NKSP scholars (in each cohort) must attend four CRT seminars & workshops at BU that will be conducted by culturally and racially diverse speakers and in-service teachers with expertise in CRT. These CRT seminars/workshops will also focus on case study inquiry of NKSP Scholars’ own teaching questions on CRT, and emphasis will be placed on developing cultural competence to gain deeper awareness and insights of issues affecting STEM learning with culturally diverse backgrounds. NKSP will assess and evaluate the self-efficacy of NKSP scholars in CRT and determine how efficacious they are in executing the practices of CRT using Siwatu’s CRT Self-Efficacy Scale, CRT Outcome Expectations Scale, and Culturally Responsive Classroom Management Self-Efficacy Scale. In order to generate knowledge, we will examine and evaluate Noyce scholars’ CRT self-efficacy and outcome expectancy beliefs, which will provide the data to explore the psychometric properties of the CRT self-efficacy and to predict whether our Noyce scholars can implement the CRT practices in the classrooms of high-need public schools after their certification.
  • NKSP Scholars in each cohort must take part in a one-week paid Professional Development workshop at the University of Kentucky in summer under the direction of our collaborator, Dr. Mohr-Schroeder (PI of UK’s Noyce Program), focused on CRT practices and CRT field reflections. Each NKSP intern will receive $725 for this internship - a stipend of $500 and $225 as subsistence towards housing, meal and transportation expenses.

NKSP scholars in the graduate certification pathway, will be required to participate in the MAT field experiences that will allow NKSP scholars to observe, explore, appreciate, and reflect upon diversity among learners while making accommodations for differing needs, and CRT in diverse classrooms which will provide cultural competencies with exposure to educational needs of diverse and underserved students. Topics in culturally responsive pedagogy and disposition will be covered in the required MAT 596/598 Teaching Middle School/Secondary Science or MAT 580/582 Teaching Middle School/Secondary courses, where lecture sessions will include a required diversity component, and will focus on making accommodations for learner needs, CRT, and strategies to address the achievement gap. In addition, all MAT students are required to take MAT 605: Teaching Diverse Learners and MAT 610: Parents, School, and Community. MAT 605 is designed to assist preservice teachers in developing and implementing culturally responsive pedagogy and diverse teaching styles that intentionally address the needs of all students, including English language learners and students with disabilities. MAT 610 course provides an examination and analysis of the interrelationship of the parent, school, and community, and cover topics which focus on equity, diversity, and social justice. MAT 610 course also has assignments which require students to grapple with bias, privilege, or cultural competence, and integrating field experiences that require students to work in diverse settings with diverse populations and collaborate with diverse mentors. NKSP scholars in the Graduate Certification Pathway (Early Entry MAT or the Traditional MAT program) will be required to a complete a minimum of 200 hours of field experience that will provide classroom teaching experiences in diverse settings at JCPS schools.

For retention and academic success of NKSP scholars so that they can become highly effective 6-12 STEM teachers, they will receive support services with assistance from STELC that include a NKSP orientation program, academic support, and faculty and peer mentoring tutoring that will be implement by the Student Success Center (SSC) in consultation with the NKSP PI/Co-PIs. The support program will primarily be implemented by STLEC and the STEM departments. Additionally, the Office of Identity and Inclusion will provide individual support to the minority and first-generation Noyce scholars. STELC will assist with the following support services:

  • NKSP Scholars’ Orientation: NKSP scholars will take part in an orientation program conducted by the NSKP PI/Co-PIs and the SSC staff once in Fall of each year that will provide an introduction to NKSP so that the scholars have a clear understanding of the Noyce program’s demands, expectations, opportunities and support services. NKSP Scholars must attend the Orientation program that will introduce the NKSP scholars about the Noyce Knights Scholars Program’s expectations.
  • Faculty Mentoring: A pivotal aspect of NKSP scholars’ retention and persistence is directly related to opportunities to connect with a designated faculty mentor within the student's STEM discipline. NKSP scholars who are in the Early Entry MAT Graduate Certification pathway will be paired with a NKSP STEM faculty who will serve as their NKSP STEM faculty mentor in their junior and senior years and by a NKSP faculty mentor from the School of Education during their MAT year. NKSP Scholars who are in the Dual Mathematics and Secondary Education Undergraduate Certification Pathway will also be assigned a NKSP STEM faculty mentor and a NKSP faculty mentor from the School of Education. NKSP Scholars who are in the Traditional MAT Graduate Certification pathway will be assigned a NKSP faculty mentor from the School of Education.

    The NKSP STEM Faculty mentor will oversee the NKSP scholars’ curricular and non-curricular progress in their junior and senior years. NKSP STEM faculty mentors will work with SSC staff to determine if additional academic support is needed. In the MAT year, NKSP faculty mentors from the School of Education will provide mentorship with master teachers via observation and reflection during their student teacher practicum to ensure that they develop sound pedagogical skills needed to effectively teach the STEM content in high-need settings. NKSP scholars will be evaluated by the NKSP Co-Directors/NKSP faculty mentors at the end of each semester.
  • Peer Tutoring and Peer-Coaching: Seniors from each of the STEM disciplines will provide help as needed to the NKSP scholars with the STEM courses materials/contents and tutoring via individual or small-group tutoring sessions. If a NKSP scholar cannot maintain the required GPA, NKSP STEM faculty mentors will work with Student Success Center (SSC) staff to determine if additional academic support (e.g., tutoring) is needed during their pre-service years. PI/Co-PIs will implement an action plan with SSC staff to remedy any issues/concerns. In the MAT year, Noyce project Co-PIs will serve as the faculty mentors and will provide mentorship with master teachers via observation and reflection during their student teacher practicum to ensure that they develop sound pedagogical skills needed to effectively teach the STEM content in high-need settings. Master teachers are certified mentor teachers with an advanced degree, a minimum of three years teaching experience who are identified by their administrator as exemplary teachers capable of mentoring teacher candidates.

    Paid by SSC, NKSP scholars in their senior year are encouraged to serve as peer tutors for freshman and sophomores as part of their pre-service teaching experience which can strengthen their pedagogical content knowledge that is bound to have an inordinate impact on them. Graduating NKSP students in the MAT graduate program will be assigned to help in the teacher certification (Praxis) exams preparation sessions.
  • STELC Transfer Ambassadors: For NKSP scholars from the KCTCS community colleges, STELC will assign as transfer ambassador from their respective STEM department at BU who will mentor and provide peer coaching to an incoming NKSP scholars from KCTCS community colleges to help them transition to BU.
  • Support from Counseling Center: If needed, in consultation with STELC Co-Directors, STELC will arrange for a staff from the Counseling Center to meet with NKSP scholars for counseling. Counseling Center offers a series of online workshops on topics such as test anxiety, time management, as well as stress management and stress reduction during ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Support from Career Development Center: In consultation with STELC Co-Directors, Career Development Center will assist with the placement of NKSP graduates in JCPS or in another high-need school district and will provide various professional development workshops to NKSP scholars, such as how to write a resume/cover letter and to develop strong communication skills.
  • Mentoring After Certification: Upon certification, STELC will assign NKSP scholars a BU faculty mentor, a teacher mentor (in consultation with JCPS) at the JCPS school where they will be assigned to teach, as well as a Noyce scholar who is a teacher at a JCPS school or at another school in KY.
  • STELC Induction Seminars: Based on Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) mandate, JCPS recently implemented a robust mandatory induction/orientation and a professional development program for new teachers so that they can become highly effective teachers and grow professionally. Even though, NKSP scholars will complete an induction program once they are employed at a JCPS school, STELC will host two induction seminars for each NSKP cohort that will be conducted by national experts and JCPS teachers on specific topics for new STEM teachers prior to their formal induction by JCPS in their first year of teaching. NKSP scholars must attend two Induction seminars and take part in the annual STEM Maker Fair event at BU, hosted by STELC.

For questions about STELC, contact:

  • Dr. Akhtar Mahmood (Professor of Physics), STELC Co-Director;
    Phone: 502.272.7599
    Email:, or
  • Dr. Kristin Cook (Associate Dean of School of Education and Associate Professor of Science Education), STELC Co-Director
    Phone: 502.272.8146
students eating at tables in the dining hall