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Gheens Foundation makes gift to support WKU’s SKyTeach Program

A Louisville foundation has partnered with WKU to provide scholarships that will train future math and science teachers from Jefferson County.

According to Kathryn Costello, WKU’s Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations, the Gheens Foundation made a gift of $50,000 to support WKU’s SKyTeach Program.

The endowment will provide scholarships that will be used to recruit students from Jefferson County into the SKyTeach program.

“In 2007, WKU was notified that it had received a significant and ground-breaking gift of $1.4 million from the National Math and Science Initiative,” Costello explained.  “The Gheens Foundation’s commitment was one of 114 that totaled an additional $1 million in private support for the program.  By raising these funds, WKU received an additional $1 million match from NMSI, including $50,000 to match the Gheens gift.

“The SKyTeach curriculum includes a strong science/math focus and is structured as a double major in science and mathematics education and science or math,” she continued. “SKyTeach is the certification route for middle grades and secondary math and science teacher education candidates at WKU.  We are truly grateful to the Gheens Foundation for their support of this important program.”

Drs. Martha M. Day and Les L. Pesterfield, SKyTeach Co-Directors, said the generosity of the Gheens Foundation’s gift will allow the WKU SKyTeach program to make a greater impact in furthering its mission to recruit, prepare, support and provide outreach to science and mathematics teachers.   The continued philanthropic activities of the Gheens Foundation will make a profound and long-term impact for SKyTeach to develop a cadre of science and mathematics teachers who will inspire future generations of innovators, creators, and leaders in the STEM (Science Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) disciplines.

Approximately 250 students are currently enrolled in the SKyTeach program on the main campus in Bowling Green and at WKU’s regional campuses in Glasgow, Elizabethtown/Radcliff/Ft. Knox and Owensboro. As of May 2012, the program has produced 42 graduates.

Carl M. Thomas, President of the Gheens Foundation, said the organization is proud to provide support for the SKyTeach Program.   “Preparing future teachers in science and mathematics is critical to our state and region,” he said.  “The challenge grant from the National Math and Science Initiative was particularly inspiring.  We value our relationship with Western Kentucky University and look forward to future opportunities to invest in its vital mission.”

About the Gheens Foundation

The Gheens Foundation was founded in 1957 by C. Edwin and Mary Jo Gheens.  Its mission is to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Kentucky and Lafourche Parish, La., by creative grant making and philanthropic leadership to meet the present and emerging needs of our communities.  The foundation has more than $100 million in assets and is headquartered in Louisville.

About SKyTeach at WKU

WKU’s SKyTeach grant was the result of a competition that included submissions from more than 50 universities nationwide.  The award for WKU’s SKyTeach was one of 12 originally funded by the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) to implement programs modeled after UTeach, a highly successful math and science teacher preparation program at the University of Texas at Austin.

SKyTeach is a collaboration of WKU’s Ogden College of Science and Engineering and the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences and includes partnerships with 10 of 31 school districts in the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative (GRREC).  WKU was the only institution in this region of the United States selected by NMSI for the five-year grant.

Replication of the UTeach program at WKU addresses this region’s need for math and science teachers, and it serves all of Kentucky and the entire mid-south region. This program is headed toward more than doubling the number of STEM teachers and improving the quality of teacher preparation, much as the UTeach program in Texas.

Contact: Kathryn Costello, (270) 745-6208.

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