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Meeting Challenges, Celebrating 25 Years, UTeach Tackles State's Teacher Shortage

Meeting Challenges, Celebrating 25 Years, UTeach Tackles State's Teacher Shortage

As UTeach at The University of Texas at Austin celebrates 25 years of preparing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teachers, it is rising to meet challenges, including a significant shortage of teachers in states like Texas. UTeach's new intensive accelerated teacher development program, UTeach for Texas, aims to help curtail the teacher shortage by supporting career changers who already hold a STEM degree so they can receive teacher preparation in just seven months.

For the last quarter century, the UTeach program has expanded beyond UT Austin and has served students at 50 colleges and universities throughout the country, helping to train more than 7,600 STEM teachers. UTeach combines rigorous subject-matter work with secondary teaching certification without adding time or cost to four-year degrees. Research has shown that secondary students taught by UTeach graduates outperformed their peers in Texas by an additional 4 months of learning in math and 5.7 months in science over the course of one academic year.

"The best way to create enthusiastic STEM teachers is to start with STEM majors and inspire some to become teachers," said Jeff Kodosky, Cofounder and Business and Technology Fellow, National Instruments, who inspired and supported the early development of UTeach. "This simple but brilliant idea made a lot of sense to me. It is exactly what UTeach does and why it is so successful."

Its track record makes UTeach uniquely qualified to meet the current educational crisis, which is marked by a shortage of well-prepared teachers who both know their subject matter and are committed to teaching as a long-term, professional career. UTeach for Texas participants are able to take virtual classes with university faculty and train with secondary teachers in local schools. During a summer fellowship, participants refresh their subject matter expertise. UTeach for Texas continues personal support after participants become classroom teachers and offers streamlined curriculum, personalized coaching, and future professional learning opportunities to participants.

"UTeach began in 1997 as a partnership between master teachers, STEM education faculty, and scientists and mathematicians. We have learned a lot since then about preparing teachers, but some of the first insights were right from the start, like that incoming teachers need to know both what to teach and how to teach it," said Michael Marder, executive director and cofounder of UTeach. Of UTeach for Texas, the new program, he added: "Schools are facing a STEM teacher vacancy crisis right now, and there is no time to waste in helping career changers who want to relieve it."

The number of science and mathematics teachers coming from the country's teacher preparation programs has been falling for years due to the drop in production from the nation's universities. The Central Texas pilot program for UTeach for Texas begins in January 2023 and is accepting applications now. 

"One of the strengths of the UTeach program is that it's extremely content-focused and that it teaches you pedagogy through the lens of content," said Paige Roberts, a UTeach graduate and current high school science teacher.

The UTeach program has generated a number of successful STEM education initiatives prior to UTeach for Texas, and all support the improvement of STEM education and the public education system overall. UTeach offers professional development, a Computer Science pathway, and accelerated certification programs; supports a national network of UTeach alumni; supports a professional organization, the UTeach STEM Educators Association; and hosts a yearly national conference. 

UTeach envisions a public educational system where all students regularly encounter high-quality STEM teachers with whom they identify and who engage students in inquiry-based, personally relevant and rigorous STEM coursework that prepares them to pursue a variety of post-secondary STEM disciplines and careers. The UTeach motto is "We prepare teachers. They change the world."

UTeach for Texas is recruiting participants now for the January 2023 pilot cohort. Information sessions are being held on upcoming Thursdays. For more information, visit the program website.

​This article was adapted from two posts written by the UTeach Institute.

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Friday, 27 January 2023

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