Nurturing Math and Science Teachers in Texas
Like many states, Texas faces teacher shortages that could reach massive proportions in the coming years. Recognizing a particularly dire need for high school math and science teachers, the University of Texas launched the UTeach program four years ago. A collaboration involving the College of Natural Sciences, the College of Education, and the Austin Independent School District, UTeach has an ambitious goal: "to recruit, prepare, and support the next generation of math and science teachers for the state of Texas."
An important part of this goal is to increase both the number and diversity of students seeking teacher certification. As UTeach co-director Michael Marder puts it, "We seek highly qualified teaching candidates who represent the full range of Texas communities and who are interested in returning to those communities to serve them." More than 30 percent of UTeach students are minorities--a significantly larger percentage than in the university as a whole. To attract a socioeconomically diverse student body, UTeach offers its two introductory field-based courses tuition-free and partners with local organizations such as school-based tutoring programs and museums to offer paid internships to teachers-in-training.
Candidate recruitment begins early at the University of Texas, with promising students from the natural sciences encouraged to apply as early as their freshman year. Admission is based on academic achievement as well as an expressed interest in teaching. Within the first month of the program's required introductory STEP 1 course, students begin spending time in Austin's public school classrooms. As Dr. Marder explains, "This gives [students] an opportunity to learn quickly how they feel about teaching. Most of them love it right away. The few that don't, find out early that they don't belong in this program."
By design, there is not a single UTeach course that focuses specifically on technology; instead, technology-based tools are integrated throughout the program. For example, in the STEP 1 and STEP 2 introductory courses, students use online assessment tools to determine their own learning styles and are expected to communicate with their professors electronically, hand in assignments via e-mail, post lesson plans in online discussion areas, and incorporate technology into lessons they teach in a school setting. At the end of a course on project-based learning, students post their lessons to the Web and create a class CD so that fellow educators have access to a library of projects. In their required research seminars, UTeach students use spreadsheets, graphing calculators, and statistical software to analyze data.
Technology competencies are emphasized in virtually every UTeach course, and students demonstrate their mastery of integration in the print- and video-based portfolios they submit for review to a team consisting of UT faculty, Austin ISD teachers, and school administrators. As an additional part of the formal student teaching evaluation process, faculty supervisors and mentor teachers observe preservice candidates teaching technology-based lessons and incorporate this information into their overall assessment.
Austin schoolteachers who mentor UTeach students also receive help and guidance from the university as a result of the partnership. Through a PT3 grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the College of Education provides training and technology resources for the Austin Independent School District faculty, so mentor teachers are provided valuable training that, in turn, helps them model pedagogically sound uses of technology for future educators.
Preparing for the Future in Virginia
Where do students interested in becoming educational technology specialists, policy makers, and mentors for future educators go to hone their skills? The University of Virginia's Center for Technology and Teacher Education within the Curry School of Education is one place. …