After the UTeach program at UT-Arlington shut down in October, the College of Science at UT-Arlington reversed its decision and revived the program last week.
The UTeach program is one of the 46 programs across the nation that is based off the original UTeach program at UT-Austin. The program allows STEM majors to add a secondary teaching certification in addition to getting their degree, UT-Austin UTeach director Kimberly Hughes said.
“Losing our program would have been a huge setback for the state,” UT-Arlington UTeach director Ramon Lopez said. “It’s such a productive and important program for producing teachers for our region.”
Hughes said the shortage of STEM teachers not only in Texas, but across the nation is a growing issue.
“The problem is just so big,” Hughes said. “Even with for-profit companies and university production, we still are not producing enough teachers to fill the positions that are available at districts.”
Hughes said within a 20-mile radius of UT-Arlington, there were 62 unfilled STEM teaching positions, and that the shortage of STEM teachers was larger than any other subject area. In Austin Independent School Districts alone, there are eight unfilled STEM teaching positions, according to the AISD website.
“STEM is a bigger shortage area than any other disciplinary area,” Hughes said.
Hughes said the program is designed to make it easy for STEM majors to try teaching in a low-stakes environment. She said UTeach offers a one-credit course that introduces students to teaching in a classroom to decide if they want to pursue the certificate.
Medical laboratory sciences freshman Marianne Villanueva said the course is how she got her start in the program.
“I had never even thought about teaching or heard about UTeach until orientation,” Villanueva said. “I just thought I had time in my schedule for the course, and now I plan to get the certification. It’s so helpful, not even with teaching, but learning how to communicate and see things when you’re just the student.”
Students taught by UTeach teachers were more likely to perform better than the average teacher, according to a study published in the Economics of Education Review. Following the revival of the UT-Arlington program, Lopez said he even plans to expand the UTeach program to include a computer science certification.
“Texas has what it takes to prepare more excellent STEM teachers,” Hughes said. “We have an excellent public university system that’s being under-utilized.”