Dordt College Takes the Lead in STEM Teacher Education with Two New Joint Majors

Dordt receives approval to offer two new joint STEM education majors

Sioux Center, IA: On February 27, 2018, Dordt received approval to begin offering two new joint education majors: math-physics and math-engineering. The driving force for this development was the Noyce grant: Dordt’s proposal included adding 8 new pathways into STEM education. These new joint majors are two of them.

Physics is currently one of the greatest shortage areas in the sciences. Only 47% of physics classes are taught by a teacher with a physics degree (  And engineering is a relatively recent course at the high school level. Often classes like Robotics or Integrated STEM are being taught by math or computer science teachers, rather than actual engineering teachers. But Iowa wants to be on the front end of having teachers with a formal engineering background teaching STEM at the high school level. The state recently approved a formal teaching endorsement in engineering, and Dordt College is the first to offer this engineering teaching endorsement.

“This is a really good choice for Dordt, because we have strong programs in teacher preparation, physics, and engineering (a program not all colleges have),” says Dr. Valorie Zonnefeld, a mathematics professor at Dordt. “So It combines three things we already do well.”

Drs. Ryan and Valorie Zonnefeld designed the programs of study, meeting with the respective departments to ensure that the sequence of courses made sense and had curricular coherence. The math-engineering major required no new courses. For the math-physics major, they proposed a new course called “Stem Methods”: designed to train teachers to teach within the unique challenges of an integrated K-12 STEM classroom. The majors were approved by the curriculum and academic policies committee on campus, as well as by the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners, to ensure that they met all the state requirements for licensure.

These are joint-majors rather than double majors, because there is an overlap in credits between the two programs (as opposed to full credits from two separate programs). But students will graduate with two separate teaching endorsement areas: they will be endorsed (licensed by the state to teach at accredited schools in grades 5-12) for both math and physics, or math and engineering.

“We are excited because it raises the level of qualifications of Dordt students who will graduate to teach,” says Ryan Zonnefeld, “and it also prepares our teachers to serve in smaller schools, by giving them the breadth of knowledge to teach both mathematics and physics or math and engineering.”

For more information on the new programs, visit