Auburn and Tuskegee Universities ‘Transforming East Alabama Mathematics’ with $600,000 grant

AUBURN – A collaboration between Auburn University and Tuskegee University faculty members resulted in a $600,000 National Science Foundation grant that will strengthen mathematics education in regional Alabama school systems through a new TEAM-Math initiative.

TEAM-Math, or Transforming East Alabama Mathematics, is a partnership of Auburn University, Tuskegee University, 14 local and regional school districts and area businesses designed to improve mathematics education in East Alabama.

Through this grant, six East Alabama educators became fellows in the recently-established TEAM-Math Teacher Leader Academy, an initiative designed to keep skilled educators in the schools where they are most needed.

The five-person team that secured the grant will oversee the new initiative and will work closely with the fellows to help them strengthen mathematics instruction at their respective schools. The first six fellows will receive an annual stipend of $10,000 for three years and tuition reimbursement for advanced degrees in mathematics education.

The fellows are Catherine Culleton of Southside Middle School, Tallassee City Schools; Debra Davis-Harris of Millbrook Junior High School, Elmore County Schools; Nancee Garcia of Auburn High School, Auburn City Schools; Lisa Lishak of Loachapoka High School, Lee County Schools; Christie Nestor of Lafayette High School, Chambers County Schools; and Denise Peppers of Sanford Middle School, Lee County Schools.

Faculty team members include two from Auburn University College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Teaching: W. Gary Martin, principal investigator and project director of TEAM-Math; and Marilyn Strutchens, co-principal investigator and co-director of the Teacher Leader Academy. Two members are from Auburn’s College of Sciences and Mathematics: Steven Stuckwisch, co-principal investigator and co-director of the Teacher Leader Academy; and Phil Zenor, co-principal investigator. From Tuskegee University, Mohammed Qazi is co-principal investigator.

“We’re hoping that the fellows will be able to continue as leaders in their schools, working with other teachers to help them be more reform math oriented,” said Strutchens. “As they learn more about math education through their graduate courses, they will be able to hold workshops at their schools and act as peer coaches. They can help other teachers understand why they’re asked to change the way they teach and help them to understand effective practices.”

“Over 90 schools have participated in the TEAM-Math program, which includes a two-week summer institute, and a one-week follow-up summer institute,” said Martin. “However, because of turnover, it’s not always clear how much of it sticks. That’s why teacher leaders are very important. They can provide the continuity and the constant encouragement at the school level.”

TEAM-Math has been at the forefront of improving mathematics education in East Alabama schools. The partnership of 14 school districts, Auburn University’s College of Education and the College of Sciences and Mathematics and Tuskegee University previously received awards of $9.4 million from the National Science Foundation to provide intensive professional development and other support systems. TEAM-Math strives to improve math education in elementary, secondary and university settings by bringing it into alignment with state and national standards, as well as the best available research on mathematics teaching, learning and program improvement. The Teacher Leader Academy is designed to build on the previous work to create lasting improvement in mathematics education.

Contact: Troy Johnson, (334) 844-4468 (, or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (