New accelerated UTeach program addresses STEM teacher shortage

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Photo Credit: Dan Martinez | Daily Texan Staff

UTeach has launched a new accelerated program for students who become interested in STEM teaching later in college. 

The program, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, will begin this fall and seek to address the shortage of STEM teachers in Texas, said Ariel Taylor, UTeach accelerated program coordinator.

“The UTeach program is very solid. It produces some of the best teachers in Texas, and we have a great track record for doing so,” Taylor said. “We have quite a bit of interest in people who would like to do UTeach, but they may not find out until later on in their degree plan.” 

UTeach co-director Michael Marder said the pressure to graduate in four years makes it more difficult for people who decide to become teachers later in college. 

“The program is a great balance of quality and speed for people who are near the end of a degree or already have one,” Marder said. “The coursework lasts for a year, and afterward, we are working with school districts to place people into provisional teaching jobs.” 

Education professor Jill Marshall said the STEM teacher shortage in Texas is due to multiple factors. In Texas, future teachers must hold a STEM degree to teach a STEM subject in middle or high school. 

“STEM majors typically require at or near the maximum number of hours for graduation, and at competitive universities, it’s hard even to be admitted to natural sciences or engineering,” Marshall said. “Many good students are not able to get in.”

 

Another reason for the shortage of STEM teachers is fewer graduates choose teaching and instead pursue medical school, graduate school or industry jobs, Marshall said. In some cases, the salary options for other occupations are not so different from those in teaching, but when graduates are presented with many options, less choose teaching. 

“In some cases, students get pressure from parents and the community to go into medicine or business because of perceived prestige,” Marshall said. 

Taylor said if a student is interested in teaching, they should be making future plans right now. 

“If they are a junior right now, and they are thinking about what they will do after graduation, this would be a great time to try to figure out if the UTeach accelerated program is right for them,” Taylor said.