Student teacher program receives $50 million in scholarships

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Photo Credit: Melanie Westfall | Daily Texan Staff

UT is one of 10 Texas universities to receive $50 million in scholarships over the next 10 years for students studying to become teachers through the Raising Texas Teachers program.

Cinthia Salinas, Chair of the Ruben E. Hinojosa Regents Professor in Education, said the Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation, which initiated the program, elevates the teaching profession and supports the individuals who  need this kind of scholarship.

“UT is the flagship university of the state and a lot of (students) come with the intention of maybe doing something that is a little more financially beneficial to (them),” Salinas said. “It’s really important for us to think about how can we attract the best...and how can we support them as they learn about teaching in a traditional teacher ed program.”

Five hundred of the university students will be selected annually through an application process for the program, and each will receive $8,000 per year. The funding comes from H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt’s philanthropic efforts.

Mark Daniels, director of the Raising Texas Teachers Initiative in UTeach Natural Sciences and mathematics professor, said he thinks this scholarship program will greatly help with recruitment and retention of students for the UTeach program.

“I think it’s very important in this economic climate because teachers don’t make as much as many professions in terms of pay,” Daniels said. “Often these scholarships for students ease the burden of them having to pay back undergraduate loans and will allow them to really concentrate more of their effort on becoming good teachers.”

Salinas said the process of becoming a teacher can result in a hectic schedule for students juggling work and school. To be certified to teach at Texas public schools, one must earn an undergraduate degree, complete an approved Educator Preparation Program and pass the two TExES exams.

While a UTeach class might be a three hour credit, there’s a lot of time spent outside of class as well, such as driving to the school and observing the class, said education graduate student Amy Gross.

“Balancing it with school and work can be really difficult,” Gross said. “It is definitely a class that requires a lot of attention, and you just kind of have to make it work at some point or another.”

Social work junior Idalia Castro, who’s in the UTeach program, said she was excited with the news of UT receiving the scholarship money because she’s a student with financial needs.

“My parents don’t really make a lot of money, and the way I come to UT is through scholarships,” Castro said. “It was very difficult decision for me to take out a loan to pay for my summer classes, so knowing that there is now this support for UTeach from my end I think it’s pretty helpful for future teachers.”

While additional funds can ease the financial strain of students, that’s not all the program aims to accomplish.

“Our program will be set up to make a community out of these students, call them Raising Texas Teachers fellows, and provide them not just money but provide them mentorship and networking capabilities so we can really try to support them as teachers,” Daniels said.