At a time when Florida continues to struggle with a shortage of math and science educators, a partnership between Lockheed Martin and the University of Central Florida is developing the dynamic teachers who are educating the next generation of scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs.

The Lockheed Martin/University of Central Florida Academy for Mathematics and Science Program was created 20 years ago with a $1 million grant from Lockheed Martin and the National Science Foundation.

Lockheed Martin last week announced a $500,000 gift to the academy, part of UCF’s College of Education, to expand scholarship opportunities for students and provide educational enrichment programs for academy graduates.

“By helping the College of Education create a strong cast of accomplished teachers in mathematics and science, Lockheed Martin has helped make Central Florida a center of excellence for STEM disciplines,” said UCF President John C. Hitt. “Together, UCF and Lockheed Martin are developing the highly-skilled workers that our community and state need to thrive in today’s competitive global marketplace.”

The academy supports two master’s degree programs dedicated to improving math and science education. The K-8 program targets existing teachers who want to strengthen the quality of their teaching and learning. The Transition to Mathematics and Science Teaching program, or T-MAST, is for industry professionals who want to transition to teaching and put their knowledge to work in high-needs classrooms.

Each program has different curriculum, but both serve to recruit the best teachers to become leaders in math and science education.

With support from Lockheed Martin, scholars in the academy’s K-8 program will have additional financial aid opportunities. That means that more teachers interested in pursuing master’s degrees will have the chance to do so at lower costs.

Also through the Lockheed Martin gift, teachers who have graduated from the academy during the past 20 years can benefit from an enhancement program that allows them to enrich their skills.

“Our partnership with UCF represents our shared commitment to STEM education in Florida, and recognizes that teachers are the critical link,” said Denise Saiki, president of Lockheed Martin’s Global Training and Logistics business. “The teachers graduating from the Lockheed Martin/UCF Academy are defining excellence in the classroom, as demonstrated by a long list of awards ranging from the National Science Foundation, Department of Education, and teacher of the year awards at the state, district and local school levels.”

More than 500 teachers have graduated from the academy, including K-8 program alumna Rebecca Jones, a mathematics teacher at Union Park Middle School in Orange County.

“Under my care, numerous students have had light bulbs turn on, connections have been made and the joys of mathematics seem to have come alive for many,” Jones said. “With continued financial backing for higher education, more educators can continue to make a difference in the lives of our children, our society and our future as they return to school to improve their craft.”

Jones and other teachers who have completed the academy have reached more than 1 million children in Central Florida.

With the new gift, academy graduates will reach more than 18,000 children each year.

“The Lockheed Martin/UCF Academy for Mathematics and Science stands as a shining example of what a successful partnership is capable of accomplishing,” said College of Education Dean Sandra L. Robinson. “Over 20 years ago we found in Lockheed the partner—and friend—with the vision and understanding that an investment in education can pay extraordinary dividends across a broad spectrum.”