Grant helps STEM professionals transition to teaching
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Grant helps STEM professionals transition to teaching

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  • Annette Flores/Rio Salado College

Katy Westersund

Fifteen science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals have a chance at recareering as secondary classroom teachers— with the help of a generous $16.5K stipend provided by the National Science Foundation and Rio Salado’s fast-track teacher education
program. The deadline to apply is Feb. 3, 2015.

Rio Salado’s Noyce Scholars Program is ideal for Valley STEM professionals who’ve been thinking about making the transition to teaching. The stipend funds are part of a $1.2 million NSF grant awarded to Rio Salado in 2011 as a way of encouraging STEM professionals to bring their industry experience to the classroom, combat the shortage of qualified STEM teachers and help Arizona teens prepare for high-need STEM careers.

Grant helps STEM professionals transition to teaching KatyWestersundHP

Katy Westersund, an environmental engineer who recently completed a student teaching assignment, is one of 20 students in the Rio Salado’s Noyce Scholars Program that trains stem professionals to become classroom teachers.

It was a natural decision for Phoenix resident Catherine Westersund to enter the program.

“I started to think about my prior career as an environmental engineer, and about what I can do now,” said Westersund, a full-time mom who also volunteers at her children’s school.
“I attended Rio’s Post Baccalaureate Teacher Preparation Orientation,” said Westersund. “The instructor put up a
slide with three questions: Do you like math and science? Are you needing to re-career? Do you want to help
others learn? And I said, yes, that’s me.”

“I decided to pursue a career as a secondary math teacher because I loved my career as an environmental
engineer, said Westersund. “I think I saw that as a mother I could advocate for my children, to give them the best
opportunity and to love math and science.”

Westersund completed a student teaching assignment at Tempe Union High School in November. By January,
she will be certified and ready to teach high school math. She is one of 20 students currently participating in the

Qualified applicants will have an opportunity to earn a Secondary Arizona Teaching Certificate in math or science
for grades 6-12. They will be provided mentoring, assistance with job placement and first-year classroom support.
The 15-month post-baccalaureate program is online, making it accessible and convenient.

“Students are supported throughout the program with their coursework by a success coach and a mentor during the first year of
teaching to assist with classroom management and other first-year teacher challenges,” said Noyce Scholars
Program Manager Karen Nave.

Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree, three or more years of experience in a non-education STEM career–
and a passion for teaching. The application process includes a subject knowledge exam, a teaching seminar and
screening interview.

For more details, visit or call 480-517-8066.