Abigael Lyons ’21 aced math early, so she didn’t need to take any math courses during her sophomore year. Instead, she tutored other students in calculus and algebra.
She liked doing that, and pretty soon, everything added up: She wanted to be a math teacher.
“I liked teaching mathematics and really enjoyed the improvement I saw in the people I was working with,” she said.
Now Lyons is breaking new ground as the first student in a new University of Lynchburg program for future science and math teachers.
The National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Scholarship Program awarded a $1.4 million grant to the University of Lynchburg in April 2019 to create a scholarship program for students becoming science and math teachers. It gives prospective teachers in science and math scholarships averaging $20,000 per year in addition to the financial aid they already receive, as well as mentoring and workshops to help them excel as teachers. In exchange, Noyce scholars promise to teach four years in a high-need school district.
University of Lynchburg faculty sought the grant as a way to combine two of the University’s major strengths — teacher preparation and science education — as well as determine the best methods for helping students become successful teachers. The workshops focus on teaching students from underrepresented backgrounds and students with special needs.
“Schools throughout Virginia and the nation need more science and math teachers who are prepared to teach and reach all students, regardless of their challenges or cultural background,” University of Lynchburg Provost Dr. Allison Jablonski said. “Our Noyce scholarship graduates will be able to teach students who might otherwise consider math and science to be challenging. Their students may find the door open to careers that they thought were out of reach. We are so thankful to the National Science Foundation for supporting this program.”
Central Virginia Community College and Beacon of Hope, a nonprofit that helps Lynchburg high school students prepare for college and provides scholarships, partnered with the University to help guide students in the direction of the Noyce program.
University of Lynchburg students, or CVCC students preparing to transfer, can apply for the scholarship starting the spring semester of their sophomore years. A total of 22 students will receive Noyce scholarships over the next several years.
Lyons became interested in the Noyce scholarship program because of the workshops, which address culturally competent teaching, reaching students from diverse social and economic backgrounds, and using technology to help struggling students, among other topics. Removing cultural barriers in the classroom is important to her. In fact, she’s minoring in Spanish so she can be better equipped to communicate with more students.
“I hope with this program, that I will be equipped with techniques to go into the workforce and give struggling students hope and motivation to learn through mathematics,” she said.
“I look forward to learning from my mentors and being able to have someone there for me when I have questions or need guidance. I want to know as much as I can so that I can make a difference in students’ lives because that, for me, is the ultimate goal.”