When I started working for AIMS in 2014, we started the AIMS Scholars program. Now I know some of you reading this have received scholarship funds from the AIMS Foundation in the past (myself included), and therefore might wonder what I mean by “started.” During the 2014-2015 academic year, a public campaign was rolled out to scholarship 50% of the costs to attend and earn a Master of Arts degree in Mathematics or STEM Education at Fresno Pacific University (FPU). This campaign, along with some other important actions on the part of other entities, brought in approximately 40 new students to these programs in one year.
These 40 students have spent the past three years working late nights, attending classes, studying, reading research, solving problems, learning to conduct studies of their own, and attending monthly or bi-monthly colloquia talks. This hard work is paying off, as most will be graduating and going through ceremonies on May 4 & 5 after having completed their Master’s Thesis papers.
These papers have ranged across a wide array of topics including: “The Effects of Using Polya’s Four Step Problem Solving Upon Student Attitudes,” “Implementing Google Chromebook Technology,” “The Effects of Inquiry-Based Science Upon Reading,” etc. These students implemented the use of manipulatives in mathematics instruction and 3D printing to foster a robust concept of scale in middle schoolers, as well as build Rube Goldberg machines and promote the idea of productive struggle in their classrooms. Some took what they learned and tried to influence others by conducting professional development sessions around implementing specific mathematical practices, or the interface of the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core English Language Arts Standards.
They have taken on the challenge to learn, and through that learning, lead. These two programs, Math and STEM Education, exist within the Educational Leadership Division at FPU, something I will admit I didn’t understand at first. These recipients of AIMS support have demonstrated that the programs are well-placed, in fact. These students, many of them already hired as district or county level leaders, are engaging in their profession, no longer content to work within the four walls of their classroom. They lead professional learning community conversations and are becoming the resources for other teachers and paraprofessionals.
Some of these students have had babies, deaths in the family, weddings, job changes, illnesses, accidents, joys and sorrows in abundance along the path. More than one epithet has been hurled my way, the causes of which I recognize as both stress induced and probably deserved. Nonetheless, these students who entered have transitioned. We now consider them scholars, and masters of the craft. A hard-fought appellation, and I for one congratulate them. Well done, cohort one!