Pitt County science teachers to receive fully funded master’s degrees from ECU

Ten Pitt County middle grades science educators will receive fully funded master’s degrees in science education from East Carolina University as part of a new partnership between the College of Education and Pitt County Schools.

Jamie Stanfield, right, and Xavier Guions, center, talk to Bonnie Glass, ECU science education faculty member, about the new master’s in science education cohort program that Stanfield and Guions will start in summer 2024. (Photos by Kristen Martin)

“We are so lucky to have such a great human resources department that sees the value in investing in our teachers,” said Jennifer Stalls, Pitt County Schools (PCS) district STEM coordinator and K-12 science curriculum specialist.

The 10 teachers will be part of a cohort, taking classes together throughout the master’s process, which will start this summer. The degree program is designed to sharpen instructional expertise, develop research skills, promote leadership and deepen science knowledge, especially in the biological, physical and earth systems sciences.

While the Master of Arts in education in science education degree is typically 100% online, Dr. Tammy Lee and Bonnie Glass, ECU science education faculty, will cater the program more to the needs of the Pitt County educators.

“We will offer some face-to-face meetings and some place-based experiences,” said Lee. “We want to make sure that we are catering to whatever initiatives are going on in Pitt County in the coursework, because we have new science standards that just came out from the state. We want to incorporate all of those things.”

Lee and Glass have modified the order of the curriculum slightly to make sure that students will not be taking more than one class with face-to-face meetings at a time. Tailoring the classes to the district’s needs will help students feel like classes are not simply an extra thing to do but will enable them to readily put into practice what they are learning.

“I wanted to get my master’s for a while, but it’s not really something I felt like I could pursue because I didn’t have the monetary support and guidance to do that,” said Ashley Jones, a science teacher at Grifton School and future master’s student. “When the opportunity floated by, I immediately grabbed it. I’m really excited to be an ECU student again since I’m a Pirate alumna. I’m excited I get to do this with my people, people that I’ve worked in PCS with for years already and that I know are good science teachers and we can learn together.”

The school district plans to support the future master’s students by providing substitutes during face-to-face meetings as well as time and space to work on projects and their capstone. After completing the master’s program, the teachers have pledged to teach for three years in Pitt County.

“It’s really a six-year commitment because they teach here currently and the degree will be two years, and then they’ll have the three-year commitment,” Lee said.

The program is structured like previous cohort models in the Department of Mathematics Education, Science Education and Instructional Technology. With the current teacher shortage, districts are looking for ways to ensure high-quality teachers stay in the classroom and provide them with support.

“The teachers that are participating in this program stuck with us through a global pandemic and are still in the classroom,” Stalls said. “We value them as a district and ECU values them as a university.”

Ten Pitt County science teachers will complete the master’s in science education from ECU in two years. The teachers are, back row from left, Chip Geletzke, Chad Moore and Shaquanda Williams, and front row from left, Fineth Bernard, Angelo Grillo, Ashle Byrne, Kaytlyn Cyrus, Ashley Jones, Jamie Stanfield and Xavier Guions.