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CCM Professor Working to Create Well-Trained New Jersey Science Teachers

John Berger Helped Secure About $1.5 Million for New Scholarship Program - Posted 9/24/13
Thanks to the work of Dr. John Berger, associate professor at County College of Morris (CCM), the future of New Jersey’s science education looks even brighter.

Berger, who teaches chemistry at CCM, is one of the co-principal investigators responsible for the newly created Montclair State University (MSU) Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program (NTSP). Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the project will actively recruit, prepare and support 30 new science teachers for New Jersey’s high-need K-12 districts. It is a joint venture of the MSU College of Science and Mathematics, its College of Education and Human Services, CCM, Essex County College and Passaic County Community College.

Though open to all students who meet specific requirements while enrolled in MSU’s Teacher Education Program, the scholarship program will actively seek science majors at community colleges throughout the region.

“With a program like this, it’s important to have someone imbedded,” says Berger, who is responsible for recruiting students at CCM and other nearby community colleges. “If I see and know of a great candidate, I can even talk to them while they are walking through the hallway.”

NSF awarded nearly $1.5 million in funds to support the five-year project. Students accepted into the program will receive two-year scholarships equal to the cost of MSU’s in-state tuition and fees, as well as an annual stipend of $3,000. Eligible students must be undergraduate chemistry, physics, earth science or biology majors and be admitted into the MSU Teacher Education Program. Application to the Teacher Education and NTSP programs are completed at the same time. Students who have finished their sophomore year at MSU and those transferring from two-year institutions such as CCM are encouraged to apply.

Also included in the program are a series of professional and school-based field experiences to prepare students to teach and advise at a high level. In addition to actively recruiting superior students, Berger’s other job is to mentor students during the Science Career Survey Experience (SCSE) component, which will help students see how the high school science curriculum is currently used in real-world careers.

“I believe a student’s interest and outlook on science is based on his or her high school teacher more than anything else,” says Berger. “In advising, it is never too early to think about careers. Increasing the number of well-trained science teachers can improve the quality of the science workforce in America.”

During its five years, the program will train three different sets of juniors through their senior years at MSU. The principal investigator is Dr. Sandra Adams, associate professor of biology and molecular biology at MSU, and Berger’s fellow co-principal investigator is Dr. Douglas Larkin, professor of secondary and special education at MSU.

Those interested in the program can go to http://www.montclair.edu/cehs/. A page specifically devoted to the program is expected to be launched on the MSU website soon. CCM students can contact Berger directly at 973-328-5731 or jberger@ccm.edu.

Berger is excited about what the scholarships could mean for CCM students.

“Our involvement shows that CCM is not just a place to get a degree,” says Berger. “We are trying to give students worthwhile careers.”  

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Photo: Dr. John Berger, associate professor at County College of Morris.

Credit: Life in MoPhoto