NEW UH PROGRAM TARGETS SHORTAGE OF MATH,
SCIENCE TEACHERS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Getting Early Experience in Field Key to teachHOUSTON,
Encourages Earning Teacher Certification
HOUSTON, April 5, 2007 – To help urban schools attract and
retain qualified personnel, the University of Houston is immersing
aspiring math and science educators in public school classrooms
early in their college careers.
This new teacher preparation program – teachHOUSTON
– is modeled after a nine-year-old successful format at the
University of Texas, and UH is the first university where the program
is being replicated outside the UT system. It began this spring
with 14 students.
“Their exposure to a school setting from the outset is important
to the initiative’s success and sets it apart from other teacher
certification programs,” said Jeff Morgan, chair of the department
of mathematics in UH’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
(NSM). “Getting the field-based experience early and often
is really key to this program. We don’t want them to get out
there and find out they’re really not where they want to be.”
NSM and the College of Education are collaborating in teachHOUSTON,
together with the Spring Branch and Fort Bend independent school
districts. This fall the Houston Independent School District is
scheduled to come on board, and other districts have indicated they
are interested in becoming partners.
“Few colleges of education and science and math at other
universities collaborate as much as those at UH,” said Robert
Wimpelberg, dean of the College of Education. “The teachHOUSTON
program is a natural extension of that ongoing collaboration.”
Ideally beginning in their freshman year, students will take 20
hours of education courses during the next four years and will graduate
not only with a degree in a math or science discipline, but also
with a teaching certificate. Students who wait until the end of
their junior year before deciding to earn a teaching certificate
typically have difficulty fitting the 18 required education hours
into their schedules, so some potential teachers graduate without
certification. However, if students are identified early, they just
have to take one or two teacher-prep courses per semester.
Intensive mentoring is another program feature. The would-be teachers
receive mentoring from the beginning – at the university from
a master teacher and in the school districts from an assigned mentor
teacher. They will continue to be mentored after they graduate,
“From the first semester, a student works with mentors in
the district and teaches a couple of lesson plans,” he said.
“People who want to teach want to teach now. Their passion
starts to wane if they have to wait four years.”
Susan Williams, an associate professor holding joint appointments
in UH’s education and NSM colleges, is the first master teacher.
She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics
and a doctorate in education in curriculum and instruction, with
a specialization in mathematics education. After 10 years teaching
math in middle and high school, she joined UH 15 years ago.
“Williams represents the type of mentor we believe will help
prepare highly qualified educators,” Morgan said. “We
really want to turn out the best teachers possible, not just ones
who are certified.”
Williams is tasked with recruiting freshmen and sophomores into
the program, and she is teaching the introductory “Teaching
Mathematics and Science” course this spring. Next fall, they’ll
take another one-hour education course, with an A or B in either
course earning a student reimbursement from the university for the
“These introductory classes let students try out teaching
to come see if they like it,” Williams said. “Where
else can you try out a career for free?”
Additionally, Williams has assigned each student a mentor in one
of the participating school districts, where the students will complete
five assignments during the semester in that teacher’s classroom.
These field experiences include two observations and three teaching
“Research shows the more field experience they have, the
more prepared students are to work in a classroom,” she said.
“School administrators recognize that when students begin
preparing to teach as undergraduates, they receive more thorough
preparation and are retained at a higher rate than teachers from
alternative certification programs.”
Williams paired Michelle Martinez, a UH freshman among the students
recruited for the first teachHOUSTON group, with a fourth-grade
teacher at Buffalo Creek Elementary School in Spring Branch I.S.D.
Next fall, Martinez and the other students in her group will be
assigned a mentor in a middle school and one in high school the
following semester. In the fourth semester, students will choose
the grade level for their field experience. After graduation they
ideally will remain in the school district where they are mentored.
“When I heard of teachHOUSTON, I knew it was the
perfect thing for me – a student interested in math and in
becoming a teacher at the secondary level,” Martinez said.
“I could not think of a better opportunity than to join this
program and, eventually, graduate with teacher certification.”
Morgan and Williams set a goal of 20 students for the first teachHOUSTON
group, targeting those in computer science, geosciences, engineering
and bioengineering, as well as those from traditional K-12 science
areas. Morgan plans to add 25 students to the program each semester,
eventually expanding it to 200 students participating at one time.
UTeach, the UT program, has 400 participants.
UH received $250,000 from the Texas Education Agency through UT
and is seeking additional funding from corporations and foundations
across Texas that see the correlation between good math and science
instruction in public schools and developing high-tech workers for
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas’ premier metropolitan research
and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers
and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate,
civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university
in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and
service with more than 35,000 students.
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