Cedar Rapids woman switches from engineering to teaching

Published: Sep. 26, 2018 at 6:11 PM CDT
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A program at the University of Iowa aims to keep graduates in Iowa and solve a specific teacher shortage.

The Noyce Scholarship is for aspiring science teachers.

Iowa follows a nationwide trend of staff shortages in its science departments. According to the U.S. Department of Education 43 states reported science teacher shortage. In Iowa, the state reported shortages in 5th through 12th grade teachers.

Magdaly Santos is on her feet each second of class time. She wants kids to do activities, and she joins them.

She teaches at Jefferson High School. Students tested speed variables during A.P. Physics class on Wednesday,

Santos wants students to understand how to answer the question. She said the right answers will come with time. But the process is where critical thinking happens.

"And let's face it most of the kids are not going into science they're going to go into to other schools so what's important is you give them those critical thinking skills. Skills that go beyond science,” Santos said.

Before teaching, Santos worked as an engineer in Puerto Rico.

"When I moved to Cedar Rapids I was starting to look for a job. And I thought this maybe is a time for change,” Santos said.

Professionals, like Santos, are exactly who UI looks for.

"People who are out maybe as dentists or doctors and have that science background and maybe want to switch career paths,” UI Associate Professor Ted Neal said.

Through the Noyce Scholarship, graduate students get $12,000 a year to go toward tuition at UI.

After graduation they have to teach in a high-need school for four to six years.

"And the way those are tracked are through teacher retention, student social-economic standards. And we're really trying to target rural Iowa,” Neal said.

For Santos, that was an added benefit. She chose to come to Jefferson to mentor others.

"I saw an opportunity given that I'm a woman and I'm also a minority,” Santos said.

And with less than two months on the job, she already feels rewarded.

"Because when they get it their face satisfaction is valuable because they actually get it and they won’t forget it,” Santos said.

Santos is one of the first three people accepted into this program. The National Science Foundation funds the Noyce Scholarship.