The University of Central Arkansas is among three state universities selected to implement UTeach in the fall.
UTeach is part of STEM Works, an initiative of Gov. Mike Beebe's Workforce Cabinet designed to bring systemic change to teaching and learning in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines.
The UTeach program originated at the University of Texas at Austin as a way to prepare secondary science, math and computer science teachers. The program has expanded to 33 universities in 16 states.
STEM Works recently awarded UCA $216,666 to support the program. This is the first year of the multi-year grant.
“The UCA STEMTeach will allow students to explore teaching, obtain licensure and to simultaneously earn a degree with their chosen STEM discipline,” said Dr. Steve Runge, UCA interim provost and vice president of academic affairs. “This is a very positive change that we anticipate will significantly grow the number of licensed teachers we graduate from the science and math education programs at UCA.”
STEM education and the production of a STEM-trained workforce are critically important in order to build a knowledge-based economy, Runge added.
“Placing more of these teachers in Arkansas schools, who will be trained in ways to deliver very exciting science and mathematics courses for Arkansas students, will hopefully result in more students wanting to pursue a college education and ultimately a career in a STEM field,” he explained.
Dr. Steve Addison, interim dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Dr. Gary Bunn, an assistant professor in the College of Education, are the co-directors for the UCA UTeach program.
Addison said the program will make a difference in STEM teacher preparation for the state.
“We will be able to prepare students to compete in the emerging global economy, and these students will be prepared to adapt to the changes they will experience over their careers,” he said.
The program will change the way that teachers teach, making it an inquiry-based learning classroom, Addison added.
“This focus will enable teachers to develop classrooms that are learning-centered rather than teacher-centered,” Addison said. “Our graduates will also be well-versed in project based learning. Inquiry-based learning and project -based learning are the hallmarks of the New Tech high schools that are included with UTeach in Governor Beebe's STEM Works initiative.”
UCA STEMTeach program will complement existing programs and strengthen the quality of math and science teachers, said Bunn.
UCA offers the Partnership for Transition to Teaching program which recruits mid-career professionals and recent graduates with degrees outside of education and then helps these individuals become teachers through UCA’s Master of Arts in Teaching program.
“The Transition to Teaching program already provides resources for recruiting, preparing and retaining math/science teachers on the graduate level. Now, we have similar resources to prepare undergraduate math/science candidates,” Bunn said.
The university also offers a support system for teachers through its UCA STEM Institute. The institute provides high quality, innovative STEM educational opportunities through professional development, research, K-12 outreach, and sharing of instructional resources.
“Continuing to offer innovative and strong programs is only appropriate with UCA's long history as the state's university for teacher education,” Bunn said. “Combined with UCA's STEM institute and STEM Residential College, the University will have a comprehensive approach to provide support for teacher candidates from the moment that they enter the university to induction support upon graduation to professional development throughout their careers. For this university, UTeach is a natural fit.”