UTeach grew out of the conviction that public universities have a profound role to play in improving the public education system. The Texas-grown education program is a partnership between The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education and College of Natural Sciences. Together they created UTeach, a successful model for recruiting undergraduate science, technology, engineering and mathematics — or STEM majors — and preparing them to become teachers.
“The biggest problem with the entire K-12 public schooling system is the absence of qualified science and math teachers,” said Professor Michael Marder, executive director of the UTeach Science Program. “The best and most important thing a university can do to assist public education is to prepare as many of those teachers as possible.”
Since its launch in 1997, the award-winning UTeach program has expanded to 44 universities in 21 states and the District of Columbia, with a total enrollment of more than 6,800 students. Graduates of these programs are projected to teach more than 5 million secondary STEM students by 2020.
“The best and most important thing a university can do to assist public education is to prepare as many of those teachers as possible.”
— UTeach Executive Director Michael Marder
“One major strength of UTeach is that we make sure our students have an exceptionally strong grasp of the content they’ll be teaching,” said Larry Abraham, UTeach co-director and professor in the College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Education. When UTeach students graduate, Abraham said, they’re fully prepared to take on a variety of challenging careers, from medicine to NASA research, or to pursue graduate school.
Despite a wealth of choices, about 90 percent of UTeach students elect to enter teaching, and five years after entering the field, 80 percent of UTeach graduates are still in schools.
This, Marder said, is the success of the hands-on-experience. “Half of the people who graduate with us weren’t thinking of teaching when they arrived,” Marder said, “They get in a room full of kids and realize this is what they were born to do.”
Clinical faculty with years of teaching experience help prepare the students for their in-school field experiences. While in the classroom, they’re able to work closely with seasoned mentor teachers who model best pedagogical practices.
Despite a wealth of choices, about 90% of UTeach students elect to enter teaching. Five years after entering the field, 80% of UTeach graduates are still in schools.
“What makes UTeach different, and in a good way, is that we place students in school classrooms from the very first course they take and give them a chance to teach lessons from the outset,” said Abraham.
The UTeach program encourages graduating students to consider adding a teacher certification to their skillset. “Their first two semesters of the program are funded through scholarships,” Abraham said, “in fact, and are meant to let them see, at no cost to them, if the career is a good fit. If it’s not, they simply leave UTeach and continue to work on their degree.”
Photos by Mark Tway.
Feature adapted from the College of Education’s .edu Magazine article “The UTeach Effect” by Kay Randall.