Educators are a lifeline connecting young people with their hopes and dreams. Their importance is evident in the focus we place on them in our legislation and our national conversation.
It’s easy to talk about how important teachers are and quite another to give teachers the opportunities and support they need to succeed. The University of Wyoming Science and Mathematics Teaching Center (SMTC), with invaluable support from the Sigrid A. See Scholarship and the Rex and Florence Anderson Memorial Fund, is doing just that.
With its 40-year history, the SMTC functions as an interdisciplinary unit within the College of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences and offers three master’s degree programs for practicing science and math teachers, as well as numerous workshops and courses.
“The center fulfills an important function as an intermediary that helps make connections between UW faculty and the school districts,” says Sylvia Parker, Interim Director of SMTC. “We try to respond to the professional development needs that teachers discover as they work with students in the classroom.”
SMTC’s innovative master’s degree programs allow practicing teachers to attend courses on the UW campus during the month of June and focus on specific subject-matter content knowledge and how students learn those subjects. They also take an online course during the school year that links the professional development with their daily experiences in the classroom. Teachers are able to receive their master’s degrees in middle-level science or math teaching in 2-3 years.
The See Scholarship and the Anderson Fund are important keys in allowing practicing teachers to take advantage of this opportunity. With the help of partial tuition waivers, these two funds effectively cover the cost of tuition for teachers attending these programs. Since 2006, over $200,000 in scholarships have supported 137 teachers from 21 of Wyoming’s 23 counties.
“Many teachers are highly motivated to continue learning by enrolling in a master’s program, and our programs are designed to make it convenient for them to take classes and not have to quit their jobs to attend UW full-time,” says Parker. “Teachers earn relatively good salaries in Wyoming, but they aren’t rich. The deciding factor and extra incentive for many of them is the scholarship support.”
Think about that. Our valuable teachers teach our kids during the school year and then attend classes during the month of June, take one online course a semester, and make valuable connections with other teachers across the state and with faculty at the university, but their tuition is fully covered. That’s really saying something.
“This funding is important because it enables teachers to grow as professionals. It also sends a positive message that they and their work are valued—it says ‘We believe in you as teachers, and we’re going to provide you with funds so you can get even better at this.’ It says thank you very much,” says Parker.
This generous support was established by Sigrid See in honor of her parents Rex and Florence Anderson, who were both outstanding and dedicated teachers. Sigrid has also established
the Louie and Sigrid See Scholarship in Engineering in honor of her husband, who was a civil engineer. Both Sigrid and Louie received their degrees from UW.
Sigrid says that she hopes that this support will have a big impact in teachers’ lives.
Parker adds, “In a time when our educational system and teachers are often under attack, it’s important that we work together to improve our teaching and our schools. UW, as the only university in the state, has a responsibility to provide leadership and high-quality professional development in partnership with the districts and with teachers. I think UW does a good job of that. Support from the See Scholarship and the Anderson Fund helps us take positive steps in the right direction.”
Professor Tim Slater, Wyoming Excellence Chair, Science and Mathematics Teaching Center